Digital therapeutics (DTx) are a recent and innovative class of therapies and, while there have been challenges, getting pharma engaged presents a huge opportunity going forward.
The expectation is that DTx will become increasingly important as pharma looks to add value to new and existing medications, and in many quarters the consensus is that it’s not a matter of whether DTx will become widely used but when.
The price of drugs, and whether they are worth the clinical outcomes they produce, is just one area where DTx could provide a solution to one of the major issues faced by the pharma industry. The thinking is that DTx could help to solve this problem by allowing better diagnosis, treatment and coordination of care, and allowing pharma to market products with solid real-world evidence to measure and record effectiveness.
So, what should big pharma companies be looking for when they are considering working with DTx companies?
Find the Right Fit
In a recent report from Rock Health entitled Building Pharma-Digital Therapeutic Alliances, its authors noted that without historical precedents, strategies for building collaborations with big pharma continue to be developed as the sector matures.
After extensive research and interviews with big pharma clients, the authors set out some considerations when conventional pharma companies are considering working with DTx firms, including how any alliance would enhance the position of each partner with stakeholders including patients, health plans, providers, employers.
Pharma companies, who are looking to start projects with DTx innovators, should also be realistic about the likely returns on investment in the short term, it said in the report.
A separate report by Business Insider Intelligence pointed out that until now there has been a lack of reimbursement in the key US market for DTx products.
This is changing in the US, where the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now has arrangements in place for DTx products. In Europe, the digital transformation is also underway as Sidekick’s co-founder and chief executive Dr. Tryggvi Thorgeirsson noted in a a recent interview.
The UK’s NHS has developed a very ambitious digital strategy and, on the continent, Germany is taking exciting steps, such as allowing doctors to prescribe digital therapeutics, Thorgeirsson said.
But with so much of the healthcare market not covered, there is a huge opportunity for DTx companies as reimbursement arrangements become entrenched in the coming years. The global DTx market could be worth up to $32 billion by 2024, recent research shows.
DTx products are often targeted against common chronic conditions and with 59% of the US population having at least one of these, the market’s potential is huge. Lifestyle-related diseases account for a huge proportion of global human illness, and the rise is not ring-fenced around rich nations. Research shows that populations in resource-poor nations are also suffering from the same chronic illnesses, leading to needless deaths of millions.
There is an increasing consensus in the healthcare community that the current brick-and-mortar solution is unsustainable and the only long-term sustainable solution is prevention and management, but for example behavioral changes are estimated to stop 60% of pre-diabetes risk populations from developing type 2 diabetes. With 68% of global deaths attributed to lifestyle-related diseases, only a slight reduction will have a massive impact on a global scale.
With change on the horizon, Rock Health said pharma leaders must first decide whether they should be “first movers” or “fast followers” when it comes to DTx given the nascent state of the market.