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The rise and rise of the pharma mobile app

Industry apps have easily outnumbered pharma mobile websites

Pharmaceutical companies have been steadily launching smartphone apps – overwhelmingly for Apple's iPhone – since 2009, when Sanofi-Aventis' GoMeals and Novartis' VaxTrak led the charge.

There are now over 100 mobile apps from pharma, with disease calculators and patient diaries proving particularly popular.

But while firms have been quick to release smartphone apps, mobile versions of their websites lag behind in number, with corporate examples limited to just Bayer (for its US operations), Boehringer Ingelheim, Shire and Pfizer.

While pharma may be missing a trick with this app-first focus, it's not altogether surprising, given the relative low cost and ease of producing an app, combined with the strikingly high profile of healthcare apps.

In the UK a mobile app produced by the National Health Service that provides patients with health advice was used by more than one million patients in its first six months. The NHS Direct app was released in May 2011 for Android or iPhone smartphones and topped the iTunes chart of free apps in its first week.

NHS Direct's chief operating officer Ronnette Lucraft explained its appeal: “The mobile app is a more discreet and less embarrassing way of seeking health advice for sensitive issues in public or crowded places. We know that people also value the ability to request a call-back from a nurse if it is required, which is why the app is fully integrated with our phone service.”

4th April 2012

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