An App a Day

Krishna R. Patel, PharmD, RPh

Apps will begin to be prescribed by physicians by the end of this year. Call it disruption, innovation, or crossroad, but it will be here and the question is are we ready for it?

WellDoc has been selling type 2 diabetes apps, and will now be the first to launch a prescription app. Go ahead and search for “mobile diabetes management” on clinicaltrials.gov and what you find may surprise you. Just like drugs that must be approved by the FDA after presenting landmark clinical trials, BlueStar is a prescription app for Type 2 diabetes that was approved by the FDA upon showing efficacy and safety data.

Ford Motor Co. and Rite Aid are already catching on, as they have agreed to reimburse employees for using BlueStar through their prescription benefit plans. BlueStar manages patients’ disease by not only monitoring but also providing feedback to them and to their doctors.

Just as with any other drug, the health care provider prescribes the app for one month, along with refills. The prescription is received by the pharmacy, which runs it through the insurance company and also forwards the claim to WellDoc. A WellDoc trainer approaches the patient to set up the app on the patient’s mobile phone or laptop and also to provide instructions.

It seems that prescription health apps are just the thing to increase adherence, which will help drive down the cost of health care. Health apps will further lead to less “high cost” as WellDoc says that BlueStar will cost from one third to half the price of branded diabetes drugs whose monthly cost can range between $200 and $300. It will be interesting to see how prescription apps will affect FDA oversight of the health apps that we currently see all around us. There is much discussion of whether the FDA is the most appropriate agency to regulate these health apps and the extent to which it should oversee them. Will we see OTC and prescription versions of health apps in the future?

Krishna R. Patel, PharmD, RPh, is an adjunct faculty member at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

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