Smartphones driving mobile health revolution
“A drug store in the palm of your hand.” That’s what Walgreens calls the fast-growing suite of health and pharmacy services now available from many retail pharmacies to Americans with smartphones.
Technology vendors, pharmacies and other health providers are keeping pace with a slew of interactive health offerings. For proof, one need look no further than the nation’s biggest drug store retailers.
CVS Caremark, for instance, saw a huge uptick in activity among consumers linking to its pharmacy services via smartphones. The number of “customers accessing CVS.com via mobile devices and tablets has more than doubled since the beginning of the year,” said Rob Price, SVP and chief marketing officer for CVS/pharmacy.
Responding to its customers’ demand for mobile access and convenience, CVS has added new features to its mobile Web platform and a suite of apps that already included such features as prescription bar code scanning for smartphone users to make refills easier. Among the new applications: an immunization scheduling tool that allows customers to set up a flu shot appointment at a nearby CVS pharmacy from anywhere, see when prescriptions are ready for pickup, access a Health Information Center and manage their ExtraCare savings and rewards. The enhanced CVS mobile apps also include a new Pill Identifier tool, giving patients a way to check for drug interactions and identify pills by shape, color and imprint.
The pioneer in scan-driven mobile-based refills is Walgreens, which launched its Refill by Scan mobile app in November 2010 and saw a nearly fivefold increase in mobile applications in 2011. Refill by Scan now accounts for more than 40% of all online refills, according to the company, and generates more transactions than any other mobile app feature for Walgreens.
“As we put new smartphone enhancements in the hands of Walgreens customers nationwide, the response has been phenomenal,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson noted. Customers, he said, quickly embraced new mobile apps like scan-driven refills, with nearly 3 million downloads in its inaugural year.
“We’ve extended the convenience of Walgreens pharmacy through a number of intuitive, easy-to-use tools that can be very effective in helping patients better manage and improve their overall health,” said Sona Chawla, Walgreens president of e-commerce.
Also scoring with tech-savvy consumers in 2012 was Rite Aid, which last year gave users of Android and iPhone devices easier access to its suite of Web-based and mobile services with a more powerful and simpler-to-use mobile app for text messaging, prescription alerts and refill reminders, among other services. “We’ve seen traffic to our mobile-optimized website grow steadily as proof positive that our customers’ communication preferences are evolving,” said John Learish, SVP marketing.
The ability of pharmacy retailers to rapidly adapt is a positive development for a health system scrambling to deliver care.
“With the rapid growth of mobile health, usability of mobile applications is critical, as these applications present the opportunity to improve clinical and financial performance and to address the growing problem of chronic care,” HIMSS reported recently.
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Reports: Otsuka can block Apotex’s generic version of Abilify
NEW YORK — Drug maker Otsuka Pharmaceuticals can keep generic versions of its schizophrenia drug off the market, according to published reports.
Bloomberg reported that the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that allowed Otsuka to block Canadian generic drug maker Apotex from marketing a version of the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole), which Otsuka co-markets with Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Apotex attempted to argue that because any person with the right skills could create a version of Abilify’s active ingredient sufficiently identical to the original, and that the ingredient belonged to a class of drugs that had existed since the early 1980s. But the high court upheld a ruling in a lower court rejecting those claims.
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Reports: Alabama man can sue branded drug makers over generic drug side effects
NEW YORK — The state supreme court in Alabama ruled that brand-name drug companies could be sued if patients suffer complications from generic versions of their medicines, according to published reports.
According to The New York Times, an Alabama man named Danny Weeks claimed he developed tardive dyskinesia after taking generic versions of Pfizer’s acid reflux drug Reglan (metoclopramide). Pfizer acquired rights to the drug when it bought Wyeth in 2009, and generic drug makers Teva and Actavis, now owned by Watson, make generic versions.
Weeks had originally filed the suit in federal court, but the court asked the Alabama Supreme Court to determine if Weeks could sue the branded drug makers.
Under Food and Drug Administration regulations, generic versions of branded drugs must use the same safety labeling as the branded versions, and the Times noted that a 2011 Supreme Court decision, Pliva v. Mensing, determined that generic drug companies had no control over what drug labels said, meaning they could be sued for failing to inform patients of safety risks.
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