Report: Pharma companies have many apps, relatively few downloads

By Jonah Comstock
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research2guidance-main-three-groups-of-pharma-app-publishersPharmaceutical companies have a lot of apps in the market, and have been making apps for a long time, but their apps aren't seeing downloads and usage on par with the apps from other industries. That's the conclusion of a new report from Research2Guidance (R2G), which analyzed more than 725 apps from 11 pharma companies.

According to R2G, the top pharma companies have 65 apps in the Apple and Google Play app stores on average, compared to 1 to 2 apps from the average health app publisher. However, even the pharma companies with the most downloaded apps have only accrued 6.6 million downloads since 2008 and can boast less than 1 million active users.

The report offers some possible explanations for the disconnect between number of apps and wide adoption for pharma companies. For one thing, not all the apps are geared at mass adoption. Some are targeted at niche groups like providers, professionals, or people with a specific condition. The report categorizes companies like Bristol Myers-Squibb, Roche and Abbott as niche app makers, pointing out that they both have a below average number of apps and a below average number of downloads. 

In general, the report says, pharma apps aren't globally available, but instead target local markets in three or fewer countries. Also, pharma apps tend to be created to support or promote a pharma product, rather than to tackle a broader market demand. These apps might be useful, but they're unlikely to compete on download numbers with fitness, health, or diet tracking apps that appeal to a large segment of the market.

In addition, the report says, pharma companies are not conceptualizing their various app offerings as a single family of apps. They don't use common style guides, cross-reference between apps, or even come from the same publishing group. The report says Novartis in particular publishes apps under 17 different entities.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis, and Bayer are in the category R2G names "still trying" -- companies with a lot of apps and a focus on app-making that have not yet achieved a big success in terms of app downloads. These companies have downloads spread out among all their apps. For instance, Novartis' top three apps make up just 22 percent of its total downloads.

By contrast, 93 percent of Merck's downloads come from its top three apps. Merck, along with Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi-Aventis, make up the "first success" group, apps that have high downloads and a high number of apps, mostly because one or two of their apps have a lot of downloads.

Although R2G doesn't specify which apps are the successes for these companies, Johnson & Johnson is behind the Care4Today mobile health manager and Sanofi-Aventis's GoMeals app for nutrition tracking regularly shows up in top download lists from Apple.