Monday, March 7, 2011

Pharma: Know Thine Enemy

Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation. 
Harvard Business Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter 

Might we suggest that pharma begin thinking about investing serious money into healthcare that does not only involve drugs? We keep tripping over stories and studies of how non-traditionalists are stepping into the healthcare space using social media.

We found this interesting.

One group of researchers has published two papers on smoking cessation; both papers involved the same number of subjects, 27. Another group took a look at the 47 apps, designed to help smokers quit smoking, all of which are currently sold for iPhones only.

The two groups of researchers found different results.

In the first paper  the researchers first used fMRIs on the subjects, all heavy smokers, to learn which parts of the brain were fighting, or giving in, to the urges to smoke. Their description of this battle: “A war that consists of a series of momentary self-control skirmishes.”

The researchers theorized that by mapping the brain areas where these skirmishes are fought, they could predict which of the subjects would have more success at quitting–-because these brain areas were more active. The motivation they used on these subjects was text messages, eight messages a day for three weeks.

“We are really excited about this result because it means that the brain activation we see in the scanner is predictive of real-world outcomes across a much longer time span than we thought,” said one researcher. “The tasks that we use in the laboratory are simplified models of these real-world processes–-but they seem to be valid models.”

In the apps paper, the researchers checked out the 47 smoking cessation apps, just to see how effective they might be. They looked at how each app approached smoking cessation and its adherence to the U.S. Public Health Service's 2008 Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

The conclusions? The apps had “low levels of adherence to key guidelines in the index. Few, if any, apps recommended or linked the user to proven treatments such as pharmacotherapy, counseling, and/or a quitline.”

What an opportunity for pharma; it’s tailor-made.

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