Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn has a must-read column this week over at Health Populi. She noted that this Wednesday Pfizer announced a partnership with the magazine EatingWell to co-launch a mobile app aimed at patients who take Lipitor. While there are a few mobile apps in the market specifically focused on one particular pharmaceutical product, it's a safe bet that none were launched eight days before multiple generic versions of that drug hit pharmacists' shelves.
That's right: Generic versions of Lipitor will drop to $10 or less for a month's supply at the end of this month, according to Sarasohn-Kahn:
"This is Pfizer’s first foray into a prescription drug-affiliated app. The free mHealth app, Recipes 2 Go, was launched as part of the Lipitor Smart Living website and is available from the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and for Android phones and tablets from Google Play. The app includes recipes from EatingWell magazine, a shopping list tool, a timer for cooking, and a recipe search finder. The app also has a copy of the Lipitor $4 co-pay card where patients enrolled in the Pfizer Lipitor for You program can keep their ID and use the digital card for refilling Lipitor prescriptions at the pharmacy."
The app could be a helpful tool for people taking Lipitor and anyone else looking to eat healthier, but as Sarasohn-Kahn argues, the timing is a bit curious. Mobile-enabled services for patients with chronic conditions are a huge opportunity for pharma companies. Just look to Sanofi's recent launch of the iBGStar iPhone-enabled glucose meter and companion app for a much more substantial example.
Sarasohn-Kahn writes that strengthening the relationship between patients and pharma companies through mobile health services is a real opportunity, especially in the coming years as so many big name drug brands fall off their patent cliffs. That's the curious part: Mobile health apps for smartphones have been around for years, and Pfizer has been aware of the launch date for generic Lipitor drugs for years.
So, why wait until the last week to launch this app?
As blockbuster drugs go, Lipitor was the biggest, which makes this move look like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.