West Pharmaceutical Services is betting that an embrace of human factors engineering and experiential design will allow its drug delivery devices such as its SmartDose and SelfDose to stand apart from the crowd.
People are more likely to take their medications properly if a device is easy to use, Eric Resnick, vice president and chief technology officer at West (Exton, Pa.), explained this week at MD&M East in New York.
That’s a strong value argument for health providers because medication adherence is an important part of efficiently and effectively managing patient populations – something that public and private health insurers alike are increasingly requiring.
“It isn’t just about the drug and the container and the device. It’s integrating all those but then thinking patient, caregiver, family … the ecosystem behind it,” Resnick said.
West has been a components manufacturer for pharmaceutical packaging for about 90 years. In recent years, it has moved into producing delivery system devices that integrate the drug container in with the delivery technology and device.
Amgen last year announced FDA approval for the use of SmartDose as a single, monthly 420 mg dose delivery option for Repatha, which provides additional help lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). SmartDose features a silicone-free Daikyo Crystal Zenith cartridge and a Flurotec coated piston containment system from Daikyo Seiko. The SmartDose adheres to the body, usually the abdomen so that patients can be hands-free during administration.
The SelfDose patient-controlled injector, which is still awaiting a commercial launch, also incorporates user-friendly features.
“About 5 years ago we realized human factors is a given. You had to do it,” Resnick said. “The human factors was about testing, ‘OK, it can be used in the marketplace, but what do patients really want?’”
Incorporating human factors and experiential design has been a shift because it involves engineers and industrial designers working together right out of the gate, according to Resnick. It takes time for engineers to realize that human factors and user research does not slow down the development process, that there’s more than just getting the hardware and software to work.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Resnick said.
From Resnick’s point of view, drilling down to a patient’s emotional response is crucial when it comes to drug delivery.
“If you have a disease, you’re not happy. The fact that you have to take an injection weekly or monthly, whatever it may be, that’s going to remind you that, ‘I’ve got this disease,’” Resnick said. “” But you can do something where at least the emotional response to it isn’t dread. … It’s, ‘OK, you know what, I don’t mind doing it.’”
Getting there involves such things as ease of use, simplicity and eliciting a positive emotional response.
With the SelfDose and SmartDose, there was a conscious effort to make them look less intimidating. “The shape is softer curves. It’s rounder as opposed to some of the predicate products that were very industrial, just said ‘device’ all over it,” Resnick said.
Form factor was important because some patients have dexterity issues, and people had to like the way the devices work.
West has also added mobile health features to make the devices more user-friendly. For example, there is a partnership with HealthPrize, a patient adherence and engagement platform featuring gamification that gives patients prizes when then they take their medications on time.
“It’s more interesting for patients if they are engaged. They become more adherent,” Resnick said.
New versions of SmartDose are in development. Expect them to be even more user-friendly as West incorporates user feedback. “They’ll look at it as, ‘The shape’s a little bit different. The door close is a little bit different.’ … One thing that we hear back from patients is, ‘Just give me fewer steps.’”
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