New web service allows patients to see how drugs actually work in real people

Princeton 30 May 2008iGuard.org, a free, patient-driven on-line health care community, has launched an innovative new tool that brings patient empowerment to a new level. With almost half of all Americans taking prescription drugs, and eight out of ten surfing the web for their health care information, iGuard.org now lets users see real time reports of side effects experienced by iGuard.org members who have completed a brief survey on their medication experience. This is the first web service to give patients personalized drug information - giving them the knowledge and power they need to manage their own health care.

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iGuard.org is now uniquely positioned to provide "live" updates on how medications are working by posting real-time reports of side effects as experienced by members. Unlike other health and drug-safety websites, which provide static content, re-written information found on package inserts, and forums for patient discussions, iGuard.org monitors how different drugs are working across its network of users by conducting random surveys on an on-going basis. Members of the community can easily access pooled, anonymous information on side-effects, safety and effectiveness so they know what to expect when starting a new treatment.

"iGuard.org was created for patients to share information in a simple, structured way. No other site out there has a balanced information exchange that 'demystifies' the process, can give our users a level of comfort and arm them with the information they need to get informed and stay informed about their health care", stated Dr. Hugo Stephenson, founder and creator of iGuard.org with a speciality in epidemiology and drug safety. "Since inception, the FDA has given us feedback and direction on how to improve our value to those patients. The release of this new data arms our patients with far more information than they've ever had before."

The site, which went on-line in October last year, has taken off with more than 10.000 new users signing up every week. Patients rely on the feedback they find on the site and often communicate that information to their personal doctors. "iGuard.org has been among the most valuable sites I've come across", stated patient Mary Lou Sakosky of Troy, Ohio, who was diagnosed with several conditions including heart disease, bipolar disorder, Bell's palsy and thyroid disorders. "Without the site, I wouldn't have known about many of the side effects for the prescriptions I'm taking and everything I need is in one place. Thank God for iGuard.org."

If patients want to learn about treatment options for their diagnosis, they can see at a glance the average effectiveness and satisfaction scores, the likelihood of side effects, and what additional information others wish they were told before starting the medication. According to feedback of iGuard.org patients taking a common pain medication to treat shingles and fibromyalgia, 70 percent experience side effects, including drowsiness, weight gain, grogginess and dizziness, and 45 percent wish they were told more about the potential side effects before starting the medicine. And among users of a new smoking cessation medication, 69 percent say they experience side effects, especially nausea and vivid dreams, and 28 percent wish they were told more about the potential side effects and potential drug interactions, prior to taking the medicine. Most physicians don't have this type of information readily available for their patients.

"It's crucial that patients receive accurate drug safety information, and iGuard.org is an outstanding source for that information", according to Joe and Terry Graedon, co-authors of the nationally syndicated The People's Pharmacy newspaper column, and co-hosts of the award-winning health talk radio show, The People's Pharmacy, that airs weekly throughout the country. "The site is easy to use and it takes complex information and makes it available to consumers. The combination of patient feedback and side effect analysis is hard to find anywhere else."

Feedback obtained from the website extends beyond the patient to the scientific community. Rather than accept advertising or sell data, iGuard.org generates revenue by conducting surveys among the iGuard.org membership. Pooled results from these surveys allow companies to learn about improving drug research and development, as well as patient attitudes towards drugs already on the market. Patients must first consent to participate in a survey and are compensated for their time. "We feel very strongly that connecting real patients in the real world with drug researchers will allow us to learn about medicines much faster", stated Dr. Stephenson. "And in the end, isn't that what we all want?"

iGuard.org, headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, is a free and secure source of information for registered users who want to get informed, stay informed and share feedback about their medications. It offers balanced and timely content to help patients manage their health care for themselves or loved ones. Registration is free on-line at iGuard.org.


Leslie Versweyveld

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