Head-to-head drug info online? It's not scientific, but it's a window into patients' brains

Here's another worry for pharma marketers disturbed by the patient-empowerment zeitgeist. A small company is collecting drug-taking data from patients--more than 100,000 of them so far. They're adding patient data from other websites into the mix. And they're putting all that data on their website. A public website.

The company is called Iodine. The idea? Collect real-world info by the truckload and use it to help consumers choose their pills. Outside experts tell The New York Times that it could also help companies come up with ways to keep patients on their meds. With adherence a big cost to the healthcare system--and a drain on pharma sales--that could be a good thing.

For hundreds of drugs--including some newer brands--the site offers not only lists of side effects patients experience in the real world, but also more subjective measures. Is taking the drug a hassle? What are the pros and cons? How about some alternative treatments? And forget the masses: The site breaks down the data by age and gender, too.

Matt Mohebbi

Other websites do offer tons of information about individual meds, but that info is "content-driven" rather than "data-driven," one of Iodine's founders, Matt Mohebbi, pointed out to the Times.

Other companies are way ahead when it comes to collecting data on patients and drugs, too, whether from insurance claims, FDA databases, or what have you. So far, Iodine's data appears to be concentrated in a few therapeutic areas. One big one: psych meds. Another: statins. The site does have some data on the newer multiple sclerosis drugs Gilenya (Novartis ($NVS)) and Aubagio (Sanofi ($SNY)), but nothing on Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) Tecfidera. Diabetes coverage is also spotty.

Presumably, the data collection does on, and Iodine will focus on filling in the holes. More worrisome, at least for a for-profit company, is how to monetize all that data. "[O]ur first goal is to create a consumer experience that is so compelling it seals the deal," co-founder Thomas Goetz told the Times. Advertising? Goetz doesn't like the idea. Data-mining for companies? For now, the drug info is free. Brand managers might want to check out what Iodine's patients are saying.

- see the NYT story (sub. req.)

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