Digital Therapeutics – Tonic or Poison for Pharmaceutical companies?

Digital therapeutics have been seen by some as a potential threat to pharmaceutical companies, for which the perceived danger is that they could find themselves relegated by digital technology companies into a position of disintermediation vis-à-vis the patient.

We take the opposite view and consider digital therapeutics as an important new opportunity for pharmaceutical companies, thanks above all to the added value they offer the patient on drug treatment(10). In this regard, collaboration towards development of new digital therapeutics products can offer pharmaceutical companies a number of benefits:

  • improvement of health outcomes for the patient
  • enhanced value of the drug
  • extension of the drug’s life cycle
  • access to real-time/real-world information
  • personalization of drug treatment
  • completion of the therapeutic armamentarium
  • entry into new therapeutic areas.

Use of digital therapeutics by the patient generates a considerable quantity of data, related both to the disease under treatment and to the therapies used (digital, pharmacological, other). These are real-world data, generated by interaction with the digital therapeutics algorithm, by completing a questionnaire or by providing information; real-time data can also be relayed from a sensor or device used by the patient. If authorized by the patient in accordance with current regulations, real-world/real-time data on the drug can be shared with the pharmaceutical company, which thus has immediate access to a far greater quantity of data than those generated during clinical development.

Given these opportunities, a number of pharmaceutical companies in the last few years have entered into collaborative agreements with technological companies for development of digital therapeutics (Table 1).

Technological companyPharmaceutical companyYear  Therapeutic indication  
GAIA AGServier2015Major depression
VoluntisSanofi2017Diabetes
Click TherapeutuicsSanofi2018Various  
Pear TherapeuticsNovartis2018Schizophrenia
VoluntisAstraZeneca2018Oncology
VoluntisAbbvie2018Autoimmune diseases
Akili LaboratoriesShionogi2019ADHD – ASD
Click TherapeutuicsOtsuka2019Major depression
VoluntisNovartis2019Oncology
NoomNovo Norisk2019Obesity
Wellthy TherapeuticsBayer2019Various
WelldocAstellas2019Diabetes
VoluntisBMS2020Oncology
Click TherapeuticsBoehringer Ingelheim2020Schizophrenia
Kaia Health SoftwareChiesi2021COPD

Table 1 – Collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and technological start-ups for development of digital therapeutics

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