Digital therapies or digital medicines have been in development for years and have sparked the interest of pharmaceutical companies who view them as a way to add value to prescription drugs by providing support services to consumers. They also have the potential to reduce healthcare costs by helping doctors monitor patients remotely. They can be used to passively collect data and quantify the effectiveness of these drugs and to help patients adhere to care plans.
This week’s INVEST PharmaTech virtual conference spotlighted digital medicines with a panel discussion on their future, sponsored by Emergn. Carrie Northcott, Senior Director, Project Lead Digital Medicine & Translational Imaging, Pfizer Inc. led the panel, which consisted of:
- Lana Ghanem, General Manager, Hikma Ventures
- Pierre Leurent, Chairman, Digital Health, Aptar Pharma
- Mario Moreira, Senior Advisor, Emergn
- Abhishek Shah, Co-Founder and CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics
Shah said he sees digital therapies as a way to support health equity.
“How do we use clinically validated software as a medical device to address unmet patient needs, both clinically and quality of life, in a way that is reproducible, scalable, effective, safe and regulated? and in the hands of patients and caregivers?” added Shah.
Moreira replied that digital transformations must take place within an organization to advance digital medicine through the agile in pharma trend in healthcare.
Some digital medicine uses include identifying side effects of certain drugs. For example, for oncology patients, they can help them identify and manage the symptoms and side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Leurent highlighted how Aptar Pharma’s digital therapeutic approaches support remote monitoring for the “treatment journey” in dermatology with the aim of improving adherence. The American Academy of Dermatology published a report noting that 45% of patients with psoriasis surveyed discontinue their treatments. Aptar partnered with Noble to develop a Bluetooth-enabled auto-injector, AdhereIT, that detects when a patient has administered an injection with real-time visual, audio and haptic feedback whether the injection was done correctly. The information also enables healthcare providers to remotely monitor their patients’ therapy via a smart analytic dashboard,
providing valuable patient-specific information about adherence behavior, according to a press release on Aptar’s website.
“We have more and more connections with wearables,” says Leurent. “I think we can go a long way in integrating our drug delivery system with digital companions, examples of which you see in the form of smart injectors.”
The panelists agreed that the success and advancement of digital therapies depend on a collaboration between pharmaceutical and digital health companies, payers and physicians who champion digital medicine.
“We are starting to see new reimbursement trajectories in several markets to also cover the new activities of healthcare professionals when they want to monitor patients remotely,” noted a panelist, but added that education remains a challenge. “There is still a lot of room to inform the market about the existence of these solutions… We also need to work together to make using these products very simple, so that they fit within existing workflows.”
Some panelists also noted that pharmaceutical companies are making greater efforts to include the patient’s perspective in the development of digital therapies. It seems to reflect an evolution that has shifted from marketing hype to building an infrastructure that can support these complex programs.
The pursuit of clinical validation of digital therapies is another challenge that needs to be addressed more vigorously by developers of digital therapies for wider adoption.
Northcott noted that given the amount of data digital therapies generate, being able to easily move the data is also an important consideration for patients, physicians, payers and regulators.