Extending the chronic pain conversation past the point of prescription

By: Kirsty Whelan, Strategy VP, imre health

Purdue Pharma will stop marketing OxyContin to doctors. It took a slew of lawsuits, overwhelming public disdain and a national opioid crisis to get us here.

While it’s far too early to know if this highly publicized decision will have any impact on the frequency and regularity of which physicians write prescriptions for opioids, it raises questions that all pharma companies who market drugs to patients with chronic conditions, can ask themselves in light of the opioid epidemic.

  • What exactly do our drugs treat?
  • “Are we treating patients’ chief complaints, or their underlying concerns?”
  • “Does “patient support” end with the click of the prescriber’s pen, or the printing of your receipt at the pharmacy?”
  • “Is our support of patients who take our drugs merely transactional?”

We are living in the array of a national emergency, largely caused by one-way marketing to physicians and patients. To prevent the exacerbation of this crisis and protect patients living with pain and other chronic conditions, we must focus on treating the whole person, and not just her illness. This means initiating two-way, transparent dialogues among patients and prescribers. Social and digital media can be an effective and scalable forum for this. It also means incorporating themes of wellness and prevention into that conversation. It means collaborating with patient advocates, technology platforms and healthcare providers to develop truly transformative support solutions for patients who are being treated for pain or other chronic illnesses.

Purdue Pharma’s announcement this week should not only serve as a dark cautionary tale – but a call to arms to disrupt how we communicate to patients, directly or through our healthcare system, and a commitment we make to those constituents, and to ourselves, to do more and do better.


Pharma and the opioid epidemic