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August 9, 2013 by 

Despite its efforts, Big Pharma hasn’t exactly taken a big bite out of the mobile health market. According to a new report from mobile app research firmresearch2guidance, only one pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis, has created an app portfolio that’s achieved more than 1 million downloads.

If mobile health is headed toward becoming a multi-billion dollar market, and Big Pharma has a financial advantage over cash-strapped app startups, why haven’t they been able to build apps that appeal to a greater audience? Even Sanofi-Aventis’s 1 million+ downloads doesn’t stack up to other medical apps like the Medscape reference app and HealthTap.

For its new series of mobile health reports, research2guidance analyzed the 795 most successful health, fitness and medical apps in five countries, and 250 apps created by pharma companies. The firm’s analysts came up with a few ideas for why they’re lagging behind, and what they could do to get ahead.

  • Pharma companies are generally focusing on niche health conditions or medical reference for certain kinds of providers. Meanwhile, they’re steering clear of bigger mobile app markets, like wellness and games. Sanofi took advantage of a wider market with its popular GoMeals app, which is intended for diabetics but also reaches a broader audience interested in nutrition.
  • Most apps from Big Pharma companies fail to meet best practice criteria for apps today, the report says. “These best practice apps are graphically compelling, can be used intuitively, provide APIs to connect to third party data/ functionality and are just incredibly helpful for their target group.” Roche, for one, overcame this by inking a deal to supply content to Glucose Buddy , which was already a successful app. It’s frequently ranked as one of the favorite diabetes apps out there.
  • More pharma companies are moving “beyond the molecule” and starting to sell more than just pharma products. Sanofi, for example, has reportedly designed a bag and diabetes accessory case and a talking epinephrine auto-injector that guides patients through the injection process. If planned right, apps could act the same way, educating and educating patients and healthcare providers and eventually help sell the pharma companies’ products, the report proposes. Compliance apps with automatic prescription refills, or sensor supported diabetes apps that create new demand for test strips are examples.

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