Many Big Pharma companies have taken a scattergun approach to mobile apps, leading to the major players averaging 65 apps each on the Apple ($AAPL) and Google ($GOOG) markets. But relatively few of these apps have troubled the top download charts.
A report by Research2Guidance (R2G) found that GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Merck ($MRK) and Sanofi ($SNY) outperformed their peers in terms of apps downloaded. Sanofi took the top spot, an outcome that is likely partly due to its nutrition-tracking app, GoMeals. All of the top four have--or in Merck's case, had--consumer products units, which typically develop apps with more mass-market appeal and less potential for regulatory run-ins than prescription drug businesses.
The different business models are reflected in the numbers of apps developed and downloaded. GSK and Sanofi have more apps than any other company. And J&J and Merck are both in the top 6. At the other end of the scale, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Roche ($RHHBY) have a small portfolio of apps that have racked up relatively few downloads. R2G found that Bristol-Myers, Roche and Abbott ($ABT) target a higher proportion of their apps at healthcare professionals.
In between the niche players and mainstream successes sits a group of companies with sizable app portfolios but few downloads. AstraZeneca ($AZN), Bayer, Novartis ($NVS) and Pfizer ($PFE) make up this group, which R2G calls "still trying." These companies have fewer downloads than the likes of Merck and Sanofi, but the difference between the groups is bridgable. No company has more than 6.6 million downloads or 1 million active users.
Special Report: 20 Big Pharma and biotech mobile apps - 2013