To control an asthma patient’s symptoms, doctors will prescribe an inhaler to stop symptoms from cropping up and a rescue inhaler to be used if patients find themselves in the middle of an asthma attack.
“But if your rescue inhaler doesn’t give you the relief that you need, your next recourse is to go to the emergency room and get a breathing treatment. When you walk in that emergency room, the costs start at about $1,500,” medtech veteran Arik Anderson told Drug Delivery Business News. “These are avoidable healthcare costs.”
The root of the issue is that people are not properly taking their medications, according to Anderson. It’s not just affecting patient outcomes, either – medication nonadherence is a $300 billion problem in the U.S., he said.
Adherium’s medication sensors, including for AstraZeneca‘s (NYSE:AZN) Symbicort inhaler, automatically send usage data to a person’s smartphone. The accompanying mobile app lets users set daily reminders, track their history and share their data with their doctors.
“It provides key data to the doctor to help bring them closer to the patient so that they really understand what’s going on when the patient leaves their office or leaves the pharmacy with a prescription,” Anderson explained.
The company’s platform has been studied in more than 70 peer-reviewed journal articles, according to Adherium’s CEO. Anderson said that in multiple studies, the medication monitoring system has helped reduce the number of trips children and their families have to make to the emergency room by 80%.
“The other thing that to me is so striking – and I’m not sure as a society we’ve ever put a number on this, but I think we can all appreciate how meaningful it is – is that in studies, we’ve increased the number of days that children attended school by 26%,” he added.
Solving the challenges presented by people not following their doctor’s treatment plans comes down “creating a behavior of adherence,” Anderson said, and “taking the preventative medication when you’re supposed to, the way you’re supposed to – because the drugs work.”
The company has adopted a design and development philosophy that is centered around the user and they’re constantly reiterating – Adherium’s technology is in its sixth generation.
“What we see is that for a person with a chronic disease, the medication becomes an intrusion into their life. It’s not something that they were looking to adopt. So as we look at what we’re doing, we want to make sure that what we do and the way we do it is as unobtrusive as possible,” Anderson said.
For example, instead of building a rechargeable sensor that needs to be plugged in every night, Adherium chose to add an embedded battery into its sensor that will power the system for at least 12 months.
Over six generations of technology, the company’s sensors have become more capable, according to Anderson.
“Not only do we look at simply the time, but if it’s got a mouth cap, did you remove the mouth cap? If it’s an MDI inhaler where you’ve got the medication suspended in liquid, did you shake it? Is the inhaler in the right orientation? Because there are patients that use it upside-down,” he said.
All of this information could be helpful for a doctor that is struggling to understand why a patient’s therapy isn’t working to control their asthma – the answer may be as simple as reminding the patient how to hold their inhaler.
Anderson said the company is looking for new channels into the marketplace beyond its partnership with AstraZeneca. Adherium plans to launch direct-to-consumer in the U.S. before the end of June.
“So the over-the-counter clearance for us, building on the prescription clearance we already had, allows us to simplify the process of getting patients or their loved ones on the platform,” Anderson said. “Now they can come directly to our website. They can identify the medication that they’re prescribed and we’ll send the sensor that matches that medication, directly to their door for next-day delivery.”
Looking more broadly at the industry in which Adherium exists, Anderson sees an economic crisis unfolding.
“We can’t keep doing what we’ve done the same way, because the costs aren’t sustainable,” he said. “As we look at it, being able to bring innovative solutions that improve the medicine and improve the economics is not only important, but it’s urgent.”