This article has been written by Aline Noizet, Frontiers Health Ambassador
Digital Therapeutics (DTx) have been under the spotlight this past year. They have the potential to become a game changer in healthcare for patients, healthcare professionals, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies. The Digital Therapeutics Alliance developed a definition to differentiate DTx solutions from health and wellness apps.
The tipping point of the rise of DTx was Pear Therapeutics becoming the first Prescription Therapeutic Solution to receive clearance from FDA for reSET in September 2017. The ReSET Prescription Digital Therapeutic (PDT), developed in collaboration with Sandoz, treats patients with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The second milestone was when Pear signed a collaboration deal with Novartis to co-develop digital therapeutics for schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis in March 2018.
Why are pharmaceuticals looking at DTx?
The pharma sector has been undergoing changes, moving towards value-based healthcare, which makes a nice path for DTx to come in, complement their offerings and offer a good differentiator factor: DTx solutions have the potential to collect lots of real world data about the users and pharma companies could use those data to improve their drugs, adjust therapy pathways and come up with new treatments.
Dthera Sciences focus on neurodegenerative solutions such as Alzheimer’s, delivering digital reminiscence therapy
Pharmaceutical companies are looking for sustainable new business models to complement their traditional activities. DTx could be used in phase II of clinical trials for monitoring patients, helping reduce costs of drug development and speeding up that phase. They could even become the new biosimilar.
DTx are also attractive for pharmaceuticals because they have the potential to treat diseases with no or limited current treatment, like IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome) and to address better comorbidities with a unique solution: 30% of patients with migraine also suffer from IBS for instance.
Bold Health are developing digital treatments for functional and autoimmune condition using machine learning and cognitive behavior therapies (CBT).
What matters are the outcomes
Outcome should be the goal of any DTx solution regardless of the intervention, whether it’s digital or not. Treatment is not sufficient anymore; what matters are the outcomes. Getting to know the patient enables better treatment options. For example, the patients suffering from schizophrenia are more comfortable with technology than with people, which makes DTx solutions more efficient. Digital solutions and data can help patients be more in control of their health and diseases.
Curelator address migraine management by helping each individual to map out factors affecting or improving their migraine and giving them CBT tools to manage the attacks and avoid medication overuse.
Untire app is improving cancer patients life by decreasing fatigue and increasing happiness.
Engagement and adoption
‘The blockbuster drug of the century is the engaged patient.’ ~ Anand Lyer, WellDoc
It’s not enough to develop a technologically advanced solution if the patients are not using it. It’s essential to fully understand the problem that needs to be solved and to focus on the User Experience when developing the solution, as it is key to make the solution attractive, keep users engaged and adherent to the therapy. Catering for cultural differences is also key as patients in different countries think and behave differently.
Kaia Health develop a multimodal back pain personalized therapy combining physical, psychological and educational elements, as well as AI and motion sensors to ensure the most effective therapy. ‘Kaia listens. Kaia adapts’.
Moovcare detect relapse or complication during follow up of lung cancer thanks to patients sharing their symptoms regularly and a machine learning algorithm. They recently got reimbursement authorisation from French insurance system.