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Merck develops diabetes game

Published on 17/12/13 at 02:35pm
Ayogo CEO image
Ayogo’s chief executive Michael Fergusson

Merck has announced it is working with digital health specialist Ayogo to develop a new game aimed at helping type 2 diabetes patients better manage their condition.

The US giant has said it is turning to gamification along with the Canadian-based Ayogo, in a bid to support patients to continue taking their medicines, which many can forget given the high number of treatments needed for most of their lives.

This will include adherence to Merck’s Januvia brand, the world’s best-selling diabetes medicine, which collectively brought in $5.7 billion in 2012.

The so-called Type 2 Travellers Project game which is currently undergoing pilots, puts users on a journey around the globe. They can pick an avatar and then compete in mini games in order to win gold coins, which they then use to help move them around the world.

Interaction with an online community of diabetes patients is the
 critical component here, and is set as the driving motivation for people 
returning to the game.

Users are also asked why they want to control their diabetes, and can post the reason to the community wall in order to draw inspiration from others.

This will prove useful to Merck as it may also be able to tap into the data being generated from these discussions in order to gleam real world data from posts.

Ayogo’s chief executive Michael Fergusson said: “Our goal is to help diabetics get their condition under control. Users feel like they are getting gold for having fun, but really they get it for engagement.”

The game was built on Ayogo's Empower platform, which has been the subject of two pilots with academic partners, with a third pilot currently underway.


Ayogo also works with Sanofi Diabetes and helped them launched a new healthcare app called Monster Manor in October, which helps children with type 1 diabetes better manage their condition.

The two groups developed the app alongside Diabetes UK in an effort to encourage children to test and record their blood glucose levels on a more regular basis.

Rise of gamification in health

These projects are the latest in pharma venture into ‘gamification’ - the theory that game-playing and interaction from games can help in other walks of life.

Earlier this year Merck’s competitors in the diabetes market, Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly, launched their educational digital game for type 2 diabetes called ‘Complications Combat’.

The game is available for desktop and iPad users and is intended to raise awareness of the many complications associated with type 2 diabetes, and the challenges doctors and patients face when considering and managing these problems on a daily basis.

Boehringer and Lilly co-market the oral diabetes treatment Tradjenta, which competes with Merck’s market leader Januvia.

The objective of their game is to effectively manage type 2 diabetes and its complications by clicking or swiping the complications and ‘friends’, which are the healthy steps for managing the condition, to the correct side of the screen to maintain optimal patient health for as long as possible.

Ben Adams 

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