Walgreens partners with PatientsLikeMe for online information on drug reactions

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In a partnership that promises to be a kind of Yelp for meds, pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is collaborating with PatientsLikeMe of Cambridge to host information about side effects for more than 5,000 medications on its website.

When customers log into walgreens.com, they will be able to see a list of most common reactions to medications and the severity with which they occur, aggregated from PatientsLikeMe’s database of information reported by patients who are taking those treatments.

It’s the first major partnership for PatientsLikeMe, which began as a forum for patients with rare diseases to share experiences about treatments.

Since opening to patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2006 and then to patients with other chronic conditions, PatientsLikeMe now includes 300,000 members who have recorded side effects of treatments for 2,300 diseases. The new partnership potentially extends the company’s reach to Walgreens’s 8 million customers.

“Finding member groups that actively want to share is harder than you might think,” said Michael Evers, executive vice president of marketing and patient advocacy at PatientsLikeMe. “They offer just about the biggest potential out there.”

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Though Walgreens is the first external website to host PatientsLikeMe’s data, Evers said the partnership isn’t exclusive and he expects to announce others later this year.

Unlike anonymous reviews on Yelp or amazon.com, which are not monitored or edited, comments on PatientsLikeMe are closely followed. A team that includes doctors read posts about side effects reported by community members, and compares them with known research and lab tests. The team vets accounts to weed out bots and spammers, and also relies on its vigilant patient community to report any suspicious activity.

Walgreens’s website does not permit visitors to add their own experiences. Instead, those visitors are directed to the PatientsLikeMe registration page, where they are invited to sign up and add their own experiences.

As members of PatientsLikeMe, they will be able to see information that the Walgreens website does not show, including more detailed comments from patients using a particular treatment.

In addition to the new patient-reported information, the Walgreens website allows customers to re-order their prescriptions and chat with a pharmacist, among other features.

“This provides an avenue for social engagement specific to their condition,” said Markeisha Marshall, a spokesperson for Walgreens. “PatientsLikeMe as has expertise in this space. It’s something that’s tried and true for them. They were appealing for that reason.”

Image via Flickr user Frankieleon

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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