Columbus, Oh. Why is it that pharma apps don’t get the same downloads and usage as apps from other industries? A recent study by Research2Guidance (R2G) analyzed more than 725 apps from 11 pharma companies and found “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.”

Niche audiences and local markets. The report offers some possible explanations, such as many of the apps are for highly targeted audiences like healthcare professionals, or people with specific disease states. In addition, pharma apps tend to target local markets, in three or fewer countries, which makes them “unlikely to compete on download numbers with fitness, health, or diet tracking apps that appeal to a large segment of the market”. (mobihealthnews)


Who’s doing it right? Given that our metrics may look different than other healthcare apps, let’s look at who’s succeeding within their portfolio.

Patient Apps

Sanofi-Aventis, US – GoMeals

Still appearing on the Apple Downloads Chart, GoMeals started as a food-reference library for diabetics to look up calories, fat, protein and carbs among thousands of common items. It has evolved to include features for patients to record blood glucose results, track activities and calories burned, and a restaurant locator for specific dietary needs.

Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen), US – Care4Today

Another app that continues to be recognized, Care4Today is a mobile health manager that goes beyond simple medication alerts. It pulls in information from medical databases about medications, can tie in with family members, and has a charitable rewards system for adherence. New developments include Care4Today programs specifically for Mental Health, Heart Health, and Orthopaedic Care.

HCP Apps

Eli Lilly, Denmark – ED Web App

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a challenging topic for patients to discuss with their physicians. To support these conversations, the ED web app provides non-branded information for the healthcare professional prior to the patient consultation. Following the consultation, relevant information can be sent to the patient based on the discussion facilitating informed choices about treatment options and building trust. [eyeforpharma]

Boehringer Ingelheim, Germany – Respimat Inhalation Demonstrator

Designed for HCPs, the app provides medical information on the next generation device and facilitates physicians training patients on how to use Respimat. What makes the Respimat Demonstrator stand-out compared to other comparable apps: it enables inhaler interaction – a key issue, provides hands-on experience with an intuitive interface and it is available at no additional cost. [eyeforpharma]


In short: We look to these frontrunners as benchmarks of what resonates with patients and HCPs, but also realize that it’s not always a numbers game when it comes to pharma apps. As with any app development, the ones that gain traction start with the end user and work backward to develop user experience and functionality that is worth coming back to.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.