Drug compliance continues to be a concern, particularly for drugs that have to be administered using a drug delivery device, such as pen injectors and inhalers. Physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and drug delivery device manufacturers are concerned about patients’ well-being, but the latter two also profit from improved compliance. Therefore, drug delivery device manufacturers and their pharmaceutical partners are focusing a lot of their resources on improving these products. Historically, these companies have focused their resources on designing increasingly reliable and easy-to-use devices. For example, companies have developed pen injectors with easy-to-turn dials to adjust dosing, easy-to-read dose display settings, and an audible end-of-dose click that helps patients know when the full dose has been delivered.
While these human factors remain important attributes, drug delivery device manufacturers have recently started to focus their attention on smart devices. For example, the Smartinhaler developed by Adherium boasts a 180% increase in adherence among child patients. The Smartinhaler is able to track medication usage, provide medication reminders, and transmit the data to mobile apps for easy access. Another example is the Veta Smart Case for the Epipen auto-injector. The Veta Smart Case is capable of monitoring temperature as well as sending alerts regarding data on the EpiPen location and expiry status. All of these features are very helpful for patients that want to better manage their chronic conditions—great news, right?
Maybe not. I spoke with someone very knowledgeable in the industry, and what he said struck a chord with me and changed my mind. To summarize, patients will be compliant if they want to be and no amount of technology can force them to be compliant if they don’t want to be. It makes sense, and I can somewhat relate. I have set monthly reminders on my iPhone to let me know it’s time to pay my bills. I press snooze over and over again, never once paying the bills the first time I see the reminder. In fact, I find them quite annoying at this point. (I acknowledge that paying my bills is in no way as pressing as taking medication for chronic conditions). But many people are theoretically pressing snooze on their medical treatments mainly because of cost. A study conducted in 2010 showed that 23.1% of the US population reported not filling a prescription or skipping a dose in the past year due to costs. Although the study is somewhat dated, it still rings true as the out-of-pocket costs of prescription medicine haven’t particularly declined.
The inaccessibility of medication due to costs is not something that smart devices can fix. In fact, these new innovations may contribute to the problem because they are expensive. These smart devices are just add-ons to existing drug delivery devices, which means that a patient who wants to use the Veta Smart Case will have to purchase both the EpiPen and the cases—one for each auto-injector. Costs are a strong hindrance to the adoption of smart devices, and even if they are adopted it is uncertain how the masses of patients will use these smart devices.
Smart devices will have a place in this market, serving a niche population who can afford these technologies and want to closely manage their chronic conditions. We are so used to technology and innovations that make our lives easier, but maybe this time, technology isn’t the answer. Perhaps what is required for stronger patient adherence is a better patient education program to teach them about the importance of medication in managing their chronic conditions and the risks that they’re taking by being non-compliant. Of course, the age-old issue of costs will undoubtedly require teamwork between pharmaceutical manufacturers, drug delivery device manufacturers, insurance companies, and politicians. The US health care system is highly fragmented and has led to a more relaxed regulation on drug prices, exacerbating the problem, but that’s a conversation for another time. So, while some patients will benefit from these smart devices, targeting the underlying problems requires so much more than this new tech. To truly improve compliance rates, we will need more than a data tracker and a friendly reminder from our smart devices.
The US Drug Delivery Devices report will be published in September 2016. It provides comprehensive data and analysis on the current state of the market for drug delivery devices in the US across a 10-year period. To learn how you can get up to 50% off this and any of our other complete MedTech 360 Therapy Area Report bundles, click here. Seize this opportunity to see the opportunities.
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