doc and patient

It doesn’t take much for a patient to become confused about what the best course of treatment is for him or her. There are multiple channels of information and advice coming from all directions. From the time we get up in the morning to when we rest our heads at night, we are bombarded with information about which treatment is best and why some are the worst. We hear it from the media, from our friends, from our family, online, standing in the grocery store, etc. While there can be power in all of this information, it can also make it difficult to decipher the truth.

In the United States for example, some advertising includes dire warnings about the dangers of certain medications that could cause life-threatening issues to your loved ones. Many of these ads are funded by law firms fishing for clients, yet they can spook patients and their families with skewed, one-sided information about medication that could be saving their lives.

In recognition of 2016 World Heart Day on September 29, it is important to talk about “misinformation of care” around heart disease, and how pharma and physicians can help dispel these myths and keep patients on track with their care.

A common myth around heart disease right now is that anticoagulants always cause life-threatening bleeds. Anticoagulants are designed to thin a patient’s blood in order to prevent clots that can stop blood flow to major organs, including the brain, heart and lungs. Left unmanaged, these clots can cause strokes, heart attacks and other potentially deadly medical conditions.

So yes, while an anticoagulant does increase the risk of bleeding, the benefits for patients at risk of blood clots can be far more significant. But when patients and their families are bombarded with frightening ads that only talk about risks, it can skew their understanding of the value of these drugs. This lack of information can cause them to go off their medication, or to never fill prescriptions in the first place. We have even seen this trend stretch to physicians, who eventually change their prescribing habits in response to repeated concerns raised by patients and their families after seeing these ads.

All of this can lead to dangerous and expensive consequences for patients and the healthcare industry. The American Heart Association warns that when patients with chronic conditions — such as cardiovascular disease — do not take medication as directed, the repercussions can be severe, such as having a stroke and kidney failure. And one study shows non-adherent heart failure patients were found to be almost twice as likely to be re-hospitalized within a year than those who adhere to their medication.

Yet non-adherence rates are high among this patient population, with one study showing that fewer than half of patients with atrial fibrillation adhere to their anticoagulant regimen in a real clinical-practice setting.

Setting the record straight

Fortunately, a good clinical nurse educator (CNE) program can help shift these trends by giving patient accurate, scientifically-based information in the healthcare setting about how their prescribed medication can help them. In many of Quintiles’ CNE programs, our nurse educators will spend 60-90 minutes with newly diagnosed heart disease patients, answering their questions, helping them understand their disease and the importance of adherence, and providing them with strategies they need to stay compliant with their medication.

These CNEs also become a valuable resource for physicians, keeping them apprised of how their patients are doing with a new treatment, and answering any questions they may have about the medication and the science behind it. Because the vast majority of CNEs are nurses themselves, they are often viewed by physicians as a trusted source of information, and that can help close an important knowledge gap. Physicians don’t have the time to stay up-to-date on every drug in the marketplace. Having the support of a CNE in a clinical setting provides them with a trusted peer with whom they feel comfortable asking questions, so that they can get educated about these medications in a way that is most useful to them.

Pharma companies that want to have a clinician-based resource to provide fair and balanced education to clinicians and/or provide direct patient education should consider the benefits of integrating CNEs into their commercialization strategies. Having an informed, trusted advisor in the physician’s office or healthcare environment can improve physicians’ and patients’ knowledge about their products and increase adherence rates among patients, whose lives can be positively impacted by these drugs.

> This article co-authored by Doug DeSimone, Director, HMS Nursing, Quintiles

About The Author

National Director, Clinical Science Specialists (CSS), Health Management Solutions, Commercial North America