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Mobile apps and pharma: health in your pocket


Growth in the numbers of smartphones and connected devices has extended the potential reach of pharmaceutical companies with patients and doctors. Through developing mobile health apps, companies have diversified their communication channels and their output. Health care transformation will also go through the way of new technology with mobile apps that do everything from monitoring medication adherence, a diary indicating when to take your pill or helping to manage chronic conditions and text-based education. There are all kinds of apps available and designed to make your life easier and healthier.

Earlier in the year, Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Digital Agenda, said in a memo, “mHealth is just one of the benefits of a #ConnectedContinent – helping patients, doctors and carers take control, wherever they are. From simple apps which help you stick to your exercise regime – to monitoring tools for those on kidney dialysis. I am delighted that the EU is so committed to this fascinating area. The EU has already invested over €100 million, with about €95 million up for grabs over the next two years. And we are now consulting on how best to unlock the huge potential of mobile healthcare.”

In the pharma context, this means that these apps can create added value for physicians, patients and find widespread traction among target stakeholders. These apps can build a positive link between a pharma brand and a patient population.

Since 2010, pharma investments in smartphone apps, social media platforms, and wireless devices have constantly grown, according to the Ernst & Youngs annual global pharmaceutical report.

Here is a list that will give you a taste of how pharma approached mobile apps in 2013 –among the 50 apps belonging to the pharmaceutical industry in the Apple app store:

  • Sanofi developed an app GoMeals, which is essentially anutrition database can tell you what’s in your meal before you eat it.
  • AstraZeneca’s GRACE 2.0 – Global Registry of Coronary Events (GRACE) which helps Healthcare identifying high-risk heart patients.
  • Eli Lilly’s MDLinx sponsored the creation of atool that collates the top news from cancer journals.
  • Novartis’ Clinical Trial Seek is one of many apps to repackage National Institutes of Health data on recruiting studies on cancer patients.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim’s – Complications Combat in conjunction with Eli Lilly – Players swipe items that help diabetics to one side of the screen and those that exacerbate the illness to the other.
  • Janssen’s – released version 2.0 of its health management app, Care4Today. The app can now send alerts to family members when someone doesn’t take their medication and produce charts showing adherence to treatment regimens.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb’s wellB – The iPhone app is targeted at hepatitis B patients prescribed BMS’ Baraclude and includes features such as medication reminders.
  • Bayer’s My iPill to help people remember to take their daily contraceptive pills.
  • AbbVie’s My Psoriasis Passport – The app is pitched as a psoriasis management tool, which allows users to store healthcare team details, track the severity of symptoms and stay abreast of upcoming appointments.
  • Celgene’s Multiple Myeloma Resource Center – The app helps nurses educate patients about living with multiple myeloma.
  • Baxter’s Beat Bleeds is designed to help hemophiliacs manage their condition.

There are however a few challenges. Basically any programmer can develop a health app and Apple puts the responsibility on them. So far, it looks like that the EMA[1] is not regulating these apps while the FDA defines a medical device so broadly on its website and the existing FDA guidelines seem to fail to address the issues that come when using new technology. As we know, regulation can have a huge impact on innovation in the field.

Pharma companies therefore need to understand how these mobile solutions can improve customer outreach and drive competitiveness, especially as smartphones and tablets become more and more part of our daily lives. Not to be forgotten, pharma apps are also great for getting patients insights and understanding a patient population.

More Resources:

[1] EMA is responsible only for the scientific evaluation of applications for European marketing authorisations for both human and veterinary medicines (centralised procedure). Applications in mobile health are regulated as Medical Devices within the European Union, hence falling under supervision of National Competent Authorities of each Member State.For more information please refer to the Medical Device section on the European Commission website where you can access the regulatory framework imperative in the EU.

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