Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smart Pill Brings New Meaning to "Digital Pharma"

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The costs associated with non-adherence to drug prescriptions are staggering with some estimates ranging as high as $298 billion.  That enormous cost and Proteus’ potential to put a dent in it is part of the reason why the digital health startup recently secured another $172 million in funding. 

The company’s signature product, their newly developed “smart pill”, stands to help decrease the rate of non-compliance with prescription drugs.  The concept behind the product is relatively simple.  Patients are able to swallow a pill embedded with a microcircuit which then relays a signal once that pill begins to be digested.  The signal is capture by a wearable patch which then transmits that data, in addition to certain other biometrics such as heart rate, to outside software. 

Proteus recently released the initial results of clinical trials associated with this technology that show the pill detecting ingestion with 99.1% accuracy.

Currently the pill stands alone from the actual prescription and must be taken in addition to that drug.  The feeling is that eventually, it will be embedded within prescriptions but for the time being, patients are looking at an extra pill with every dosage. 
 
This type of drug figures to present a unique set of challenges to those marketing it.  Traditionally, marketers have focused more on marketing directly to physicians while in this case, it may be the patients who need a bit more convincing.  

Three issues come to mind immediately:

1. Many of the patients in need of this type of adherence management come from an older demographic.  Based purely on generational differences, persuading them to ingest a small computer chip may present some challenges.  This is a group in which 66% still haven’t adopted smart phones and yet they’ll be asked to embrace a smart pill.

2. Patients have already expressed fear over the security of their health data.  In fact, over 56% of patients have some level of concern over the safety of their health related information.  With smart pill data being transmitted to hospital EHRs, patients are likely to have the same level of concern.  Not to mention, if patients are concerned over the presence of this data on devices, how are they going to react to that the same data potentially emanating from their body?

3. As we touched on before, for the time being this type of technology requires taking an extra pill.  By definition, this group is averse to taking medication and now they’ll be asked to take yet another pill. 

As far as a group that would be receptive to this type of technology, how would pharma reach them?  By nature, those more immersed in technology would likely be more open to this extreme version of the "internet of things".  Are digital and mobile necessary to reach this group?  Could traditional techniques really be relied on to market a paradigm shifting concept like this?  These are just a few of the questions to add to the long list for pharma marketers. 

Need more on modern marketing techniques in pharma?  Join us at ePharma West this September 22-24 in San Francisco, CA. Download the agenda to see what we’ve got on tap.

SAVE $100.  Register here and use code XP1956BLOG.

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