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Pills? What pills?
Three ‘Without The Pill’ Digital Therapeutics You Need To Know About
Remember all those times you stood in the rain, arms flailing as you attempted to flag down a taxi? What about all those dresses that just didn’t speak to you in your local high street? Or those evenings you spent traipsing down to your local video rental store to shell out on a mediocre new release?
Thankfully, ride-hailing apps, online shopping and video on demand services put an end to all that trauma.
It is easy to feel that technology has given us a lot of nice-to-haves but hasn’t brought much meaning to our lives. Indeed, there is a compelling case to say it has made our lives more complicated. However, pharma’s digital evolution is making its application more meaningful.
Increasingly ‘beyond the pill’ services are being wrapped around new drugs in a bid to boost uptake and improve adherence.
But imagine if digital did away with pills altogether. What would that world look like? No need to imagine. Here are three stand-alone digital therapeutics that are doing just that.
Stamp of approval
Pear Therapeutics has a pipeline of software-based products designed to improve outcomes for patients, clinicians and payers alike through smarter engagement and sophisticated tools for tracking.
Its lead product, the reSET mobile app, treats substance use disorder (SUD) and was the first prescription digital therapeutic to receive marketing authorization from the FDA to treat disease.
Treat being the operative word — Reset is not the first prescription mobile medical app to get FDA approval, but it is the first to focus on treatment, not just management.
The app deploys cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to teach users the skills they need to treat SUD, aiming to increase abstinence from substance abuse and retention in outpatient therapy programs.
The app builds coping mechanisms, such how to avoid situations that could trigger a relapse.
To access the app, patients must first enter a prescription code. Doctors get a dashboard so they can monitor and reward the progress of their patients after they have completed each lesson.
The results have been encouraging. The data released from clinical trials showed a statistically significant increase in adherence to abstinence with alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and SUD in those who used Reset, compared to the patients who did not.
Sonormed is a med-tech company that focuses primarily on audiology. Its most widely recognized product is Tinnitracks, a fully digital therapeutic app for tinnitus patients.
Contrary to popular belief, tinnitus does not develop in the ear but in the brain through pathologically overactive nerve cells.This overactivity can be relaxed by filtering out certain frequencies that trigger tinnitus.
Through the Tinnitracks app, users can treat their tinnitus by listening to music that has been filtered to remove these frequencies. Users can choose their favorite tracks to be filtered (though the app automatically assesses the files to determine their therapeutic potential and will inform you if any of your tracks are unsuitable).
Sonormed says this is “especially beneficial as a training method, since you are also able to trigger positive emotions while using your sense of hearing and release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps the brain to learn.”
Clinical studies found that this therapy was able to provide relief to patients suffering from tinnitus soon after beginning treatment, while continued treatment improved the long-term success of the therapy.
Digital coping mechanisms
One of the most successful products to come out of therapeutic software company GAIA is Deprexis, an online program for the treatment of depression. It can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. The program, brought to the market through Servier, comprises audio recordings, illustrations and text exercises to help users assess their situation and develop effective ways to cope and feel better.
The program draws on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness/acceptance and positive psychology, which is reflected in the simple and intuitive design of the interface.
Users can opt to receive regular text messages and e-mails with practical suggestions, motivation tips and ideas that help them get through the day.
Throughout the program, users can objectively track their progress through a series of scientifically validated questionnaires that regularly track and review their mood and symptoms. Depending on the course of the user’s symptoms over time, they will receive graphic feedback and practical tips that can help them feel better. These objective insights can also help a physician or psychotherapist optimize their treatment (if they wish).
The results are promising. Deprexis has been shown to effectively reduce symptoms of depression in 12 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) as well as in real-life clinical settings, with results similar to those of antidepressants.
These products spell a bright future for digital innovations in the pharma industry, and, on a deeper level, make the case for technology’s role in improving, not impairing, our lives. We will be publishing a white paper that will dive into this topic in April 2019.
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