Specialty and rare disease therapies are expected to represent nearly half of the revenue generated by the pharmaceutical industry in the next five years. In fact, more than 40 percent of the drugs currently under development are specialty and rare disease therapies. 

Promoting new therapies in the rare disease space comes with unique challenges. 

There are many hurdles to gaining market adoption, particularly for those among the first to market in a disease state. Getting providers and patients to adopt a first-in-class therapy or change from an existing standard of care is no easy task. 

A study by Bain & Company revealed a remarkable insight about overcoming these challenges: At least 40% of providers’ brand preference is based on factors beyond the product. This includes “how well the pharmaceutical company supports physicians by providing answers to medical questions, identifying patients, and connecting physicians with peers…”

The study authors found that in addition to educating the market about clinical trial data, successful pharma companies address patient and physician pain points. Offering peer-to-peer education prior to, during, and after launch offers opportunities to do just that. Engaging providers online gives brands a way to overcome three common obstacles to specialty medication adoption: High costs, high complexity, and resistance to change. 

High costs

Patients taking specialty drugs face potentially high out-of-pocket costs due to benefit design that favors deductibles and coinsurance spending, according to the 2021 Economic Report on U.S. Pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers. In a recent RxBenefits survey, 49% of respondents said they experienced challenges in obtaining their specialty medications, oftentimes due to either the cost of the medication or lack of coverage by their health plan. 

This pain is felt by providers as well, who must navigate requests for prior authorizations and requests for alternative medications, both of which delay time to fill. The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs reported 75% of specialty prescribers found it difficult to access information about prior authorization requirements, patient prescription benefit data, and patient’s predicted out-of-pocket costs. 

Given these challenges, providers, patients, and caregivers benefit when pharmaceutical companies help them to navigate insurance reimbursement. To that end, savvy pharma brands are expanding education beyond the therapy itself, offering programming such as financial support resources to help guide all stakeholders through the changing drug reimbursement landscape. 

High disease complexity

Often one of the more difficult aspects of prescribing specialty medications is understanding who will benefit from an emerging therapy. Providers need support in recognizing the signs and symptoms of a disease so they can best diagnose and treat it. Engaging them in these conversations prior to medication launch can help set the stage for further discussions about the efficacy and safety of the therapy. Key opinion leaders can lead these conversations through peer-to-peer, therapy-focused online education channels such as OMedLive in oncology and RareDiseaseLive for rare disorders. Raising this awareness helps to decrease the time to diagnosis. 

Likewise, since the pool of patients experiencing a rare condition may be small, it’s advantageous for brands to bring together patients and providers to learn from one another. This may mean including a patient on a peer-to-peer digital educational program or soliciting questions from patients prior to a session so providers can best understand their concerns. Digital education, specifically, can help overcome challenges in reaching these smaller, specialty or rare disease patient populations.  

For patients, they need to know the signs of a particular condition and what screening options are available. And they need a trusted expert who can explain clinical trial results so they can understand the benefits of the treatment. 

Resistance to change

Health care providers are naturally risk averse, and adopting new therapies can be a daunting endeavor. That’s why having key opinion leaders involved with patient and provider education is so crucial. They can articulate the dire need for the new therapy, explain the game-changing nature of a new treatment, and offer insights about how to adopt new treatment modalities. 

Interpreting clinical trial data is a crucial first piece of these conversations. Busy providers have little time to cull through thousands of research studies to identify treatments that will benefit their patients. They need clinical experts who can highlight efficacy data and also help manage adverse reactions. Meanwhile, patients and caregivers benefit from having a trusted expert who can help interpret trial data for medications that may benefit them. 

Brand managers can expand online peer-to-peer education for approved therapies to cover a range of issues, from reducing the complexity of prescribing specialty medications to managing comorbidities. Engaging providers and patients in ways that are meaningful to them – and addressing their pain points – has proven highly effective for building brand trust and adoption. 

Success Stories

Several forward-thinking specialty and rare disease brands are leveraging peer-to-peer digital education in this way. Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, for example, used this approach to educate the market about a rare disease therapy. The company held several online educational broadcasts to discuss how to overcome diagnostic, patient identification, and selection challenges and engage both oncology and neurology audiences who would potentially see patients eligible for their medication. The company worked with PlatformQ Health to leverage both their oncology (OMedLive) and neurology (NeuroSeriesLive) online learning channels to drive peer-to-peer education.   

Building on this programming, the company incorporated patient case studies as further proof points. The third pillar in the program was to offer branded education about the company’s therapy for treating patients with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS). 

The program results were impressive, reaching 34,000 specialty aligned clinicians, resulting in 3,400+ engagements and an average time in session exceeding 20 minutes.

When it came time to help patients transition from a traditional infusion-based therapy to its new subcutaneous medication, a specialty pharma company also leveraged direct-to-patient and direct-to-caregiver online education. The firm partnered with clinical specialists as well as the leading aligned advocacy organization to bring free, credible and interactive online education to patients and caregivers dealing with neurological disorders. 

The specialty pharma company developed educational programming sessions focused on the self-infused therapy option as well as resources to help families navigate insurance reimbursement. The company delivered this immersive, personalized learning experience through the NeuroCareLive learning channel.

The campaign reached 28,524 unique patients and caregivers associated with the condition. Program participants consumed more than 790 hours of video content, and had an average of 27+ minute viewing time per session.

One of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies is another innovator when it comes to educating the market. The company has partnered with PlatformQ Health for more than seven years on various branded and unbranded programs in a rare interstitial lung disease to reach pulmonologists, radiologists, and rheumatologists throughout the middle of the product’s lifecycle, including introducing new indications.

Throughout the years, the company hosted programming on the ClinicalSeriesLive learning channel, resulting in 15,000+ program engagements and 127,000+ impressions. 92% of program attendees were prescribers, who had an average of 20+ minute time in session. 

These results were extremely beneficial at key timepoints for each brand. Educating providers and patients in a meaningful way strengthens brand equity and paves the way for success in the specialty products realm.

Have any questions or want to connect? Email us at digital@platformq.com.