Member Mission – what inspires our members: Maximilian Wilke – Founder & CEO of whatsin
In our column Flying Health Member Mission, we talk to innovation leaders from our network to get insights into their companies and projects. We start with Max Wilke, pharmacist from Berlin and founder of the medication app whatsin.
1. What is whatsin, what functions does the application have and what makes it stand out?
“My name is Max Wilke, I am a pharmacist in Berlin and founder of whatsin. The whatsin app helps patients with allergies and intolerances to find a suitable medication. The software is approved as a medical device and designed to be very user-friendly. It helps patients to get high-quality information about their medication within just a few clicks.”
To find the right medication, which is not containing additives or allergens, patients go through four steps in the whatsin app:
The special feature of whatsin is the specifically developed and underlying database, which is the source of all substance-related tolerances. For the evaluation, this information is compared with the drug components on the Yellow List (German Gelbe Liste). Patients receive a quick and comprehensive assessment of the tolerance of their medications (e.g., when changing their medication, starting a new medication, or when self-medicating).
2. How did you come up with the idea for whatsin? What is the actual problem that whatsin solves?
“Whatsin is a product from the practice for the practice. More and more patients have questions about allergies and intolerances to medications. From my own experience, however, I can say that neither pharmacists nor doctors can answer these questions precisely today. The area of allergies and intolerances is too complex, there are still no software solutions, and this field is not part of the pharmaceutical or medical training. That was the reason why I launched the patient app whatsin in 2018. It enables patients to help themselves and last but not least, it can avoid side effects and increase therapy adherence. Incidentally, a recent survey showed that 32 percent of patients have unanswered questions about their medication after a visit to the doctor,which is precisely where whatsin comes into play.”
3. How big is the problem of drug intolerance and what are the most common intolerances? Which drugs are mainly affected?
“In Germany there are millions of people with intolerances and allergies. The most common ones are lactose, fructose but also histamine intolerance. Many of these substances, which are know from the food sector, are also used in drugs, but are often underestimated here. However, it must be clear that when it comes to food intolerances, we also have to think about drug intolerances. Countless pharmaceutical products contain substances that affected patients that cannot tolerate certain components. A study from the USA has shown that around 90 percent of drugs contain allergenic substances. Regardless of whether drugs are over-the-counter or prescription products, allergy sufferers and people with intolerances must always take a close look at their choices.”
4. Why do you think the issue of allergies and intolerances to medication has not gained more attention in public perception so far?
“In the food sector, there is a lot of discussion ongoing around intolerances and allergies – but little attention is paid to the pharmaceutical sector. In addition, there is a lack of knowledge in many points:- Among pharmacists, physicians, but also among patients themselves. Many people are not aware that even a small amount of an allergenic substance can trigger severe reactions and side effects in an affected person. Whatsin has already done a lot of educational work in this area and is, in a way, the pioneer for the topic.”
At Flying Health, we are experiencing that only very few companies have dealt with the topic of drug intolerances so far and developed a strategy for it. Interesting is that such a patient-oriented topic offers the potential to serve as a real strategic competitive differentiator for pharmaceutical companies, (online) pharmacies or digital health providers if used wisely. Some US pioneers have also already taken up the trend topic of Clean Meds, pharmaceutical products without additives that could trigger allergies or intolerances.
5. Do we see better initiatives/approach to the issue of drug intolerances in other countries?
”whatsin is, to my knowledge, the only software of its kind worldwide. This is interesting because intolerances and allergies do not make a halt at national borders. The prevalence is similar in all Western countries of the world and the number of intolerances and allergies is increasing, which means that the market is expanding. whatsin could be a key to this market. The software can potentially provide access to millions of patients, theoretically worldwide. We are already seeing this trend among whatsin users, as we are receiving many questions from Austria and Switzerland, even though our data has so far been focused on the German market.”
6. Currently, a lot is ongoing at whatsin, what are the next important milestones for you?
“Currently, a clinical study is underway at two universities in southern Germany. The goal is to investigate the extent to which whatsin can improve the quality of life and health literacy of those affected. Ideally, we will be able to use the results to get in contact with health insurances discussing a potential reimbursement. At the same time, we are looking at options for internationalization. We are currently planning a pilot in the USA to explore the interest in whatsin there. In this market in particular, we see that awareness around allergies, intolerances and clean meds is already much further along.”
7. What is your vision for whatsin? What features/ patient groups are you planning?
“Whatsin is one of the pioneers in digital information around pharmaceuticals. We educate the patient and provide them with high-quality, well-researched information. Google cannot do that, but in many cases doctors and pharmacists also reach their limits. That is why whatsin is so valuable for patients and those affected.
However, intolerances and allergies could only be the first step for our software. There are potentially many more use cases, which can be covered by the medication data base whatsin is using. For example, we have developed a data set on the influence of drugs on the driving ability. Here, it is exciting to know that three percent of all car accidents are caused by the intake of medication. We have also developed a concept to improve patients’ adherence to medication with the help of a photo AI. As you can see: The software offers a lot of potential, now it needs the right partner for implementation and scaling.”