AbbVie manufactures and markets Kaletra, a drug used in combination with others to fight HIV. Kaletra has legions of physician-prescriber and patient-user loyalists who remember it is one of the first drugs that extended lives and turned the tide in the fight against HIV. Over recent years, the advent of one-pill-per-day therapies has cut into market shares and profits. AbbVie wanted to understand the patient journey to identify opportunities for innovation in packaging, messaging, and service.


We conducted an international series of in-office interviews with physicians and in-home interviews with patients to learn how treatment decisions are made and how patients understand, discuss, and interact with their drug treatments. Being in offices allowed us to see the tools physicians use to share information with patients, while being in homes allowed us to see how and where patients stored their medication as well as understand the day-to-day experiences of these two groups. AbbVie was particularly interested in learning from women of child-bearing age (because Kaletra is one of the few drugs approved for pregnancy), and late-to-care patients (because the drug is especially effective at reversing the progression of HIV very quickly), so we targeted those segments through meticulous recruiting.

Our overall goal was to create a journey map of the HIV experience that recognized both the clinical and emotional aspects of the experience. The series of international physician interviews allowed us to explore the notion of “switching,” or changing therapies, and its triggers. The series of international patient interviews allowed us to explore experiences using the drugs such as side effects, dosing, compliance, motivation toward health, and disease fatigue.


We learned that growing patient loads and the volumes of scientific research on HIV are stretching infectious disease doctors to their limits and leave little time for addressing their primary concern – making sure patients are complying with therapies and dosing. Patients, on the other hand, learn quickly that their HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it used to be, and are thrown into a medical system that requires their continued monitoring and involvement. As a result, we identified tactics aimed at 1) helping patients comply with their therapies so as not to lose any to built-up drug resistance, and 2) helping physicians communicate and personalize treatment solutions in an increasingly “one-pill-fits-all” environment.

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