At a glance:

What is this? A website that allows patients to talk about their ailments.

Should pharma PROs be interested?

The idea is to build up a database of patients giving first-hand views on 70 or so medical conditions, including treatments they have had and their side-effects. They, along with carers, are invited to join condition-specific ‘panels’ where they discuss their experiences and provide data via targeted questionnaires.

Hasn’t that got a ‘chatroom’ ring to it?

This information will be available to pharma companies, giving them direct feedback on different products and allowing them to focus their PR efforts accordingly. If there is a worry, say, about the common side-effect of a specific product, companies could refine their campaigns to address it.

Now that’s more like it. What else? will act as a go-between for the pharma industry by seeking patients’ permission for companies to target them directly. And it can also use its database to help provide participants for clinical trials.

What’s the cost for all this?

Data will be available for a fee but isn’t disclosing details.

Surely its success depends on how many people sign up?

Exactly. The company says 50,000 have registered so far, and the target is one million by May 2005.

How will they drive that sort of traffic?

Features such as DietTracker, a mainstream look at what you eat and how you exercise, are expected to get people to the site in the first place.

Are there plans to increase the number of conditions the site covers? is keeping an open mind, saying it may need more as wider interests become apparent – but that it could find that concentrating on fewer is the way forward. It admits that success depends on the way the database grows.

Who is behind it?

Health Information Services, a subsidiary of direct marketing specialist IPT, which has just announced its intention to float on the AIM.

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