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Searching for a cure to insomnia the Israeli way

Posted By Brian Blum On May 4, 2012 @ 11:35 am In | 3 Comments

Photo from Israel21c

Haaretz recently published an article about an Israeli website they dubbed “Dr. Google.” The site is called Treato; its goal is to aggregate health and medical information, in particular on drug side effects, in a single place rather than forcing sufferers to wade through thousands of hits on Google, many of which are either irrelevant, unverified, or thinly veiled ads for the drug manufacturers themselves.

I had a chance to speak with the Treato guys last November for an article on Israel21c and their aim, as Elvis Costello might croon, is indeed true. The site, which is backed by the former CEO of Israeli powerhouse Commtouch and some $9 million in venture capital, covers some 13,000 conditions and 11,000 medications. There are 800 million patient discussions indexed, coming from 23 million patients. Treato then analyzes and prioritizes all that data, so you don’t have to.

When I was writing the article, I decided to give Treato the personal touch. I’ve suffered from insomnia most of my life. People who don’t sleep have a lot of extra time on their hands, which often translates into trolling discussion boards in the wee hours of the night. Everyone has their own treatment successes or failures, and they’re all ready to share, push and proselytize as if their solution is just on the cusp of curing the rest of us.

There are the magnet hucksters, the CBT wonks, the magnesium machers, the anti-chocolate crowd, the acupuncture/homeopathy/chiropractor/melatonin/meditation groupies and, of course, an unending stream of recommendations for this or that sleeping pill or anti-depressant.

I’m not putting any of these true believers down – on the contrary, I’ve tried the gamut of proposals and some have actually provided some relief. It’s just that Google is an unforgiving intermediary. She doesn’t tell you what ranks higher and what the potential side effects might be. Treato does.

You still have to work it. A search on Treato for “insomnia + not sleeping” resulted in 33,000 comments, from both expected sites (anxietyzone.com, askapatient.com, healthboards.com) and some surprises (breastcancer.org, autismweb,com, schizophrenia.com). But at least I don’t have to open each site one at a time; Treato puts it all in one place.

Treato launched in 2011, is aiming for revenues of $10 million this year, and hopes to break even in 2013. It’s not a play likely to be picked up by Mark Zuckerberg or other social media moguls. “People don’t like to talk about anti-depressants on Facebook,” Gideon Mantel, the company’s CEO says.

In the meantime, I’ll keep using Treato. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll discover that pickles and ice cream are the perfect cure for insomnia. Either that or I’m pregnant.

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