[This is part one in our data report on the impact of COVID-19 on pharma]
What has the impact of COVID-19 on pharma meant for the prescribing patterns and claims for your brand? Did your brand bounce back from COVID-19 as fast as your competitors? What strategies did you implement to drive patients to pick up their medications or to help keep them adherent?
Many pharmaceutical brands experienced a tumultuous shift in prescribing and claims over the past year and a half when presented with new patient access challenges caused by the global pandemic. Truveris’ Life Sciences data science and analytics team conducted a deep-dive analysis to assess the impact of COVID-19 on pharma, specifically on prescribing and claim volume throughout an 18-month span to assess whether the pharmaceutical market has returned to a steadier state, resembling pre-pandemic times. Truveris used a proprietary index to assess the impact of COVID-19 on prescribing and claims behavior to better understand how pharmaceutical brands have recovered from the pandemic.
Prescribing Trends – Back to Normal
First, we analyzed the number of prescriptions written for maintenance medications (used to treat chronic, long-term conditions) and non-maintenance medications (used to treat acute and short-term conditions). While the number of maintenance prescriptions written decreased by 10% between March and April 2020, the number of non-maintenance prescriptions written decreased by 46%. This is supported by the fact that ambulatory care visits plummeted by 60% from March to April 2020, and fewer visits to the emergency room resulted in a lower number of prescriptions written. During the peak of COVID-19, many providers deferred elective visits to their office and instead opted into using telemedicine. While the growth in telemedicine was substantial, the overall number of visits was still significantly lower than it was before COVID-19.
As 2020 passed, the number of prescriptions written increased by about 40% through the summer, returning to levels prior to COVID-19 by fall 2020. This recovery aligns well with the fact that office visits returned to normal by October 2020. Compared to March 2020, March 2021 experienced a 44% increase in non-maintenance prescriptions written, indicating that the number of non-maintenance prescriptions written by physicians had exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
Claims Trends – Higher than Ever
Non-maintenance drug claims plummeted at the beginning of COVID-19, with claims dropping by 37% nationwide in a single month from March 2020 to April 2020. However, claims for non-maintenance drugs steadily recovered in late spring of 2020 and increased by about 10% per month throughout the latter half of 2020. In March 2021, there was, on average, an 82% increase for non-maintenance drug claims compared to the previous year, indicating a recovery in the non-maintenance drug market.
The first few months of the pandemic revealed a weakened correlation between prescribing and patient fill behavior. We found that in the first few months of the pandemic, the number of prescriptions filled was about 10% lower than expected when compared to other time periods and given the number of prescriptions written.
Claims for maintenance drugs experienced an all-time high nationwide in the early months of COVID-19, followed by a return to the baseline level of claims expected in late spring 2020. Following the spring of 2020, claims remained stable for maintenance drugs, and by March 2021, we saw a 5% increase in maintenance drug claims compared to pre-COVID-19 closures in February 2020. This shows that maintenance drug brands continue to capture patients and drive adherence, in turn growing the overall market share.
How Brands Recovered from the Impact of COVID-19 on Pharma
Adapting to the market challenges presented throughout COVID-19 required innovation around patient access and copay assistance strategies. By conducting deep-dive analyses on claims and prescribing data, many Truveris clients were able to rapidly adapt their copay and patient access strategies, adjusting to their nuanced patient needs. Below are just a few examples of ways that Truveris helped clients adjust their patient access programs during COVID-19.
Adherence – During COVID-19, Truveris was able to help clients engage patients who were hesitant to visit the pharmacy by helping switch them to 90-day supplies. By leveraging truConnect to message patients directly, brands helped encourage their patients to fill their medication at the pharmacy in order to stay adherent. With Truveris’ analytics engine, brands received direct feedback on how the 90-day supply offer was received in the market and could adjust their messaging programs accordingly. One truConnect client experienced a 4% increase in the number of 90-day supply patients during 2020, driving claims and patient adherence.
Copay program design modification and monitoring – Clients were quick to consider increasing spend to lower copay amounts for patients during COVID-19. However, after analysis on the patient abandonment rates during the pandemic, we saw patient price sensitivity was relatively flat. Therefore, brands that saw double digit losses in prescriptions needed to understand where the most meaningful drop-offs occurred. With truPay, Truveris was able to identify top physicians that decreased their prescription writing, as well as which physicians stopped writing all together. Segmenting these prescribers by territory helped create action plans for the brand’s sales reps that were more high yield, helping the brand recover more quickly to pre-COVID levels. By running insightful analyses and closely monitoring copay program metrics with truPay, Truveris helps brands optimize their patient access strategies, driving growth even during difficult times.
How has your brand adapted to the ongoing COVID-19 market?