10 Big Pharma smartphone apps

By Alison Bryant and Daniel Bowman

When it comes to the apps game, Big Pharma outfits are stepping up. Companies have added downloadable tools for both providers and patients. Apps range from Sanofi's ($SNY) GoMeals, which helps diabetes patients keep track of their diets, to Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Lilly Oncology Clinical Trials Resource, which allows healthcare professionals to search the company's and others' cancer trials. Here we take a look at 10 Big Pharma apps geared toward patients and healthcare providers.

For many drugmakers, apps serve as tools within broader digital strategies that follow a trend of doctors and patients going online or turning to their mobile devices for information about health and medicines. They rarely push products with their consumer-friendly apps, but their company brands stay in front of their target audiences. Drug reps can now say, "Check out this useful app." Sounds cooler to us than, "Here's a pen." Check out the slideshow to get a sense for the types of apps drugmakers are pushing these days.  

Care4Today, Janssen Healthcare Innovation's app, helps patients track medication regimens and provides appointment reminders. Available for a variety of smartphones and tablets, the app sends secure messages to users reminding them to take medications as directed, refill prescriptions and visit physicians. This includes over-the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements, such as vitamins.

"We have identified improving medication adherence as one of our key initiatives," said Diego Miralles, head of Janssen, in a release. "The Care4Today Mobile Adherence platform can help overcome the number one barrier to consumers taking their medications by providing customized reminders delivered via secure messaging directly to their cell phone, a device that most people carry with them at all times."

Those looking to count calories will find a friend in Sanofi's GoMeals app. The tool works well for anyone interested in healthy eating, but particularly for those suffering from a health condition such as diabetes. The app allows users to keep a running tally of calories, fats and carbs consumed during a meal. A database covers the nutritional information of more than 40,000 common foods and 20,000 menu items. And to check trends over time, the app keeps track of food intake for the last 30 days. Knowing daily intake of sugars helps diabetics keep their disease under control.

New parents may want to sign up for Pfizer's app, which helps them keep track of their children's vaccination schedules. The app, called Vaxtext, is geared toward infants from 0 to 24 months of age on the recommended vaccine schedule. Vaxtext sends personalized messages to parents' smartphones based on the age of the children indicating which vaccine is next in line. The schedule covers vaccines for 15 different diseases. Pfizer's program does not promote one specific vaccine, and registration for the app comes at no cost.

Weather, pollen levels and pollution can wreak havoc on a person with asthma. But GlaxoSmithKline's MyAsthma app, available only in the U.K. so far, gives those suffering from the affliction the option to keep tabs on those elements and potentially take preventative measures. Patients signing up for the app take a 30-second questionnaire known as the Asthma Control Test to learn how well he or she is controlling his or her asthma.

Users can view real time data about elements that may trigger asthma. The app also includes an option to track how a user's asthma has progressed over the course of a month. An email will show results of the Asthma Control Test and MyAsthma Month chart, which users can then send to healthcare providers.

Those enduring chemotherapy may find some difficulty in keeping track of their schedules. That's where Merck & Co.'s iChemoDiary swings into action. The app offers a personal oncology diary to help patients keep track of their schedules, treatments and any symptoms. A diary note feature helps users add additional information to share with a doctor or nurse. The app also includes a resource page that gives users access to sites that may be helpful to those suffering from cancer and those with loved ones who have the disease.

CIBA Vision's Academy2GO for the iPhone provides a set of comprehensive learning tools for eye care professionals and their staff members that enable accreditation on the go. Created by a division of Novartis, the app includes insights from other eye care professionals from around the world, as well as access to tools from CIBA Vision's Academy for Eyecare Excellence. Learning modules, which take roughly 40 minutes each to complete, can be paused at any time, allowing for learning at comfortable--and sometimes necessary--pace. The free app, which was updated last month to work on newer versions of iOS, is compatable with the iPod touch and the iPad, in addition to the iPhone.

Providers looking for quick and easy access to current oncology trials enrolling new patients need look no further than Lilly Oncology Clinical Trials Resource. The app, unveiled this past June, includes details on global trials both Eli Lilly and non-Lilly sponsored, and enables doctors to search using several criteria, including disease state, country, state and keywords. "The information will enable physicians to provide the most current study information--quickly--to patients who may be interested in participating in a clinical trial," Anne White, senior director of portfolio management with Lilly Oncology, said in a statement. The app is available for the iPhone and the iPad, as well as on BlackBerry and Android platforms.

The Psoriasis App from Janssen can be used by both dermatology providers and their patients. For the former, a calculator is available to check PASI scores during patient checkups. What’s more providers gain access to an impact questionnaire and a feed for all the latest dermatology news. Patients have access to the questionnaire and newsfeed, as well, in addition to their own severity calculator.

Cardiovascular disease professionals are the target audience for AstraZeneca's AZ Quest, which offers a deluge of information on clinical trials in the field. The app--available for both the iPhone and iPad--allows users to view summaries on any number of trials, add their own notes to specific trials, or email trial summaries as necessary. Professionals also have access to a live cardiovascular news feed.

Abbott’s Vysis FISH Chromosome Search available for the iPad, grants healthcare professionals access to current Vysis FISH probe information. FISH probe maps and hybridization images can be accessed via the free application, which launched in March 2011. The app also allows users to search for up-to-date information by chromosome and specific locus, and provides access to Abbott’s product page and AbbottMolecular.com website.