Consumer website tracks drug recalls; links up with Microsoft HealthVault

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Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2009,

Consumers might get product recall information faster than healthcare professionals

In the scramble to pull healthcare-conscious consumers onto the Web with online services, electronic-medical-record (EMR) storage and other bells and whistles, claims to be one of the fastest-growing currently, signing up 100,000 new users per month. The site, now almost two years old, was started to provide consumers information on medications, drug-drug interactions and product recalls—all part of getting access to “timely and reliable information about their prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements,” according to the company.

Most recently, Princeton, NJ-based has forged an agreement with Microsoft, which is developing its HealthVault service as a destination for healthcare consumers, a repository of EMRs and a player in the general category of health-related media. “By providing consumers with immediate, customized information regarding the safety of their prescription and over-the-counter medications, furthers our goal of enabling patients to take greater control over managing their own health,” said David Cerino, general manager of the Consumer Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.

Advertisement claims 1.5 million consumers have already signed up for its service, which is free. It’s hard to tell whether the deal will bring more eyeballs to iGuard or to Microsoft HealthVault, but the larger game is who will become the premier e-health platform on the Web: Microsoft, Google, Revolution Health or any number of other players. For the pharma industry, the trend needs to be watched not only as a new direct-to-consumer (DTC) channel shapes up, but also how pharmaceutical products generally will be introduced to, and discussed and assessed by consumers.

One other twist to the story is that, with consumers signed up on sites like iGuard, they may receive product-recall data faster than the doctors (or pharmacists) who are supposed to act on this information. While there are numerous efforts to alert medical doctors via e-mail, only a fraction of them currently use the channel, and still depend on faxed or even postal notices.