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Beyond the Pill: Boehringer Ingelheim’s New Self-Management Program

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With chronic diseases hitting significant numbers and continuing to grow, pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim is looking to take a more involved approach with patient management in the future.

Collaborating with digital health specialist Healthrageous, Boehringer has planned to initiate a pilot study of a program they are categorizing as a “lifestyle behavior modification program” to monitor the health status of people with Type 2 diabetes.

The pilot, which will be managed by Healthrageous, a company launched in 2010 to provide consumers with commercialized personalized health technology solutions, will involve 200 adults in the United States and revolve around coaching them on how to manage their condition, and seek to encourage them to stick to a specific regimen (i.e. exercise, dieting).

Participants in the plan will receive behavior improvement goals, biometric feedback, incentives for progress, medication reminders, and social network support availability. The program will use the internet and smartphones to deliver these interactive features.

Viewed in a positive light, the program will give corporations like Boehringer a wide array of clues and information as to which types of treatment work and which need modifying to suit common behavior. Sufferers of chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and high blood pressure can often see measureable improvements in wellbeing if nutrition, exercise, and medication regiments are strictly adhered to.

However, a program utilizing this form of an intervention certainly has to be questioned.

What will a patient do if forced with conflicting recommendations from their doctor and Boehringer’s program? Will this program open the door for other prospective online interventions in other areas? Will this lead to more prescriptions for drugs produced by Boehringer? Does allowing a program to monitor your daily habits help companies like Boehringer create reasons to avoid liability if it happens that one of their drugs ends up being dangerous or worse yet, fatal?

The theory behind the idea is without question a great one. Motivating individuals to become and remain engaged in self-managing their health is something that all pharmaceutical corporations should encourage. However, anytime a program seeks such a drastic intervention in a person’s daily life, one has to wonder: is this self-managing your health or is it letting someone else manage your life?

Many diabetes sufferers are already struggling with balancing the difficulties of their condition and the risks the drugs they sought for help create. As the dangers of medications like Actos continue to persist, diabetics should always discuss any concerns they may have with their physician in order to obtain the best advice on their treatment or care.