DEVICES GO DIGITAL
Right from the outset, Coalesce has been involved in developing electronics-enabled drug delivery devices. In fact, even prior to Coalesce members of our current team worked on such projects for pharmaceutical giants. Early device concepts were somewhat clunky with cumbersome batteries and confusing LEDs and buzzers. Some concepts used stored electrical energy to disperse the formulation, others responded to the patient's inhalation to trigger an event and each had one trait in common: expense. Little wonder then that in a market dominated by low-cost disposable devices, that electronic devices have never taken off.
So why are pharmaceutical companies now tripping over themselves to sign up agreements for connected devices? Is it a fear of not capturing the zeitgeist?
A confluence of factors is driving this trend. Firstly the ubiquity of smartphones and apps; secondly the vast cost to payors of non-adherence to medication; and finally the miniaturisation and commodification of electronics and sensors together with improvements in battery technology.
Remove the UI
Coalesce has developed a variant of our wireless inspiratory flow monitor as a demonstration of what is possible with current technology. The operating principle is similar: the use of a pressure sensor in a channel connected to the flow path and a known resistance to measure inhalation profiles. However, the embodiment is quite different:
- Real-time display via smartphone app
- Wireless data transfer using Bluetooth LE
- Emulates any device
- DPI or pMDI
- Auto-detect which mouthpiece is connected
- Wireless charging
- No UI on the device
- Improved hygiene
Where to next?
To implement the technology in an affordable manner in a disposable, or semi-disposable, drug delivery device is now patently viable and, given that people love their phones, presumably app-enabled devices are here to stay. Companies such as Adherium and Propeller Health are making huge strides in creating the infrastructure to store and disseminate the data which are gathered by such devices and big pharma is investing. There are still many obstacles to overcome though, not least the disparity between the pace that technology evolves at versus the typical life cycles of medicinal products.
With many years of experience in developing electronics enabled devices and by staying abreast of emerging trends in technology, we expect to be kept busy developing connected devices.