Earlier this week DTx company Pear Therapeutics inked a deal with adherence tool etectRx to potentially develop a product that combines the former’s digital therapeutics with a digital pill offering. As part of the deal the two companies will meet quarterly to discuss potential collaborations with the pharma industry.
“Here we are talking about how can we bring this to pharma… we are going to quarterly, and we are going to talk about the market: ‘Hey, what is pharma doing out there in clinical trials?’ Combing clinicaltrials.gov and approach them, and say could a combined solution like ours advance our clinical trials?” Valerie Sullivan, CEO of etectRx told MobiHealthNews.
The exact details of what a combined product will look like is still forthcoming. However, we do know it will be focused on the mental health space. Pear has previously released a slew of mental health-focused offerings, including one for opioid abuse disorder, substance abuse disorder and chronic insomnia.
It’s also likely that a joint offering will include etectRx’s ID-Cap System, which involves a hard gelatin capsule with an embedded ingestible wireless sensor and a wearable reader. When the patient takes the pill, they can put on a lanyard with the tracking sensor. This receiver then forwards the adherence event data to secure provider web portal, by way of an intermediary patient smartphone app.
In this partnership, Sullivan said it’s be possible that data could be connected to a prescription digital therapeutic platform for the patient’s viewing.
According to Sullivan, the partnership will rely on what is happening in the life science market.
“We are going to tailor our product to [pharma’s] needs. We really want to be listening to pharma, because we know they know what they are doing. But we know they could use some help in the clinical trials area, because a lot of their trials fail, and that wastes resources. A lot of the failure is because patients just don’t take their meds,” she said.
WHY IT MATTERS
The partnership is pitched not only as a way to help improve clinical trials, but also as a mode of giving patients more insights into their conditions.
“I had thought it might be a good idea to partner with a digital therapeutic to see if they could integrate our confirmation of ingestion of a medication into their app so patients could see: ‘This is how I’m feeling, and this is what’s happening to me right now, and this is when I took my medicine, not when I entered in when I took my medicine, but actually when a digital pill detected it.’
“I love the idea of having the power for patients to treat themselves and analyze their behaviors.”
THE LARGER TREND
In December of 2019 etectRx’s ID-Cap System landed FDA 510(k) clearance. The technology was previously studied at Brigham and Women’s for both opioid adherence tracking and in an HIV drug study.
However, the digital pill industry has had a rocky road in recent years. One of the most famous companies specializing in the space was Proteus. In 2017 the company teamed up with pharma company Otsuka to develop Abilify MyCite, a treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some forms of depression.
However, in recent years the company began to collapse. In December of 2019 the company furloughed the majority of its employees after its $100 million funding round didn’t close as expected. During this period its longtime patron Otsuka also announced that it was cooling its relations with the company. By June of this year the company filed for bankruptcy.
While etectRx is also a digital pill, it is important to note that, unlike Proteus, etectRx’s technology doesn’t require a 24/7 monitoring patch.
Pear has had its own challenges as of late. Earlier this week, Novartis published results of a clinical trial of Pear Therapeutics’ digital therapeutic for schizophrenia with disappointing results.
The trial found no difference in the primary outcome measure of reducing schizophrenia symptoms. At the time, Pear’s CEO Corey McCann said the results were disappointing, but also cited “methodological issues,” which he said were not mentioned.