When Harry Travis first met Neil Euliano and learned about his medication adherence technology, the pharmaceutical industry was beginning to usher in the age of pricey drugs with Hepatitis C therapies that hit the market at prices like $500 or $1,000 dollars a pill.
“It just so happened at the time, really expensive medications were front and center in everybody’s mind in the world of pharmacy,” Travis told Drug Delivery Business News. “No one had ever experienced a $1,000 pill. That was a first through the industry. We were all in sticker shock.”
Travis would know – he’s a pharmacist and has worked in an array of well-known companies in the healthcare industry, including Baxter and Cardinal Health.
Now he serves as the president & CEO of a 10-person company working to bring an ingestible, “smart pill” to market to help improve the way patients take their medication and the way that doctors dole them out.
etectRx‘s system, based on Euliano’s technology, includes a capsule embedded with an ingestible sensor, which sends a signal to a battery-powered reader worn around the user’s neck once the pill reaches a patient’s stomach. The reader then sends that data to a smartphone via Bluetooth, to reach the patient and ultimately, the physician.
“A patient swallows their pill, they have their reader on, and within a few minutes of swallowing their pill, they get a notification on their cell phone, that says, ‘Thank you for taking your medicine,'” Travis said.
The chief executive argued that etectRx’s technology could enable doctors to better know if their patients are compliant with a therapy regimen and tailor their treatment practices based on real-world use data.
“A lot of times patients don’t want to admit that they’re not taking their medicine to their doctor and they’re not completely honest with their doctor,” Travis said.
As the Florida-based company gears up to file its 510(k) application next year, they are also partnering with doctors and researchers to study how their technology can alter adherence trends. etectRx has conducted six clinical trials to date, Travis said, and recently announced that its ID-Cap system would be used in a study designed to improve medication adherence among men who have sex with men with a history of substance abuse and are trying to protect themselves from HIV.
The trial, conducted by Brigham & Women’s Hospital researcher Dr. Peter Chai, is slated to evaluate etectRx’s system combined with Gilead Sciences‘s (NSDQ:GILD) Truvada, a therapy that can prevent the transmission of the HIV virus if taken properly.
Chai plans to use the company’s technology to identify and improve ways that clinicians can communicate with their patients to encourage better adherence. This kind of investigation is valuable, Travis said, because every patient needs something different.
“One message does not fit all needs. Some people want to receive a text, some people want to be notified inside their app. Some people want a phone call. Some people just don’t want to be bothered, but you’ve got to negotiate with them on what is the easiest way, the best way to talk to them,” he said.
The company is also exploring different ways to make their technology more palatable to the every-day person, by testing different form factors for the reader device and exploring ways to reward patients when they consistently adhere to a prescribed regimen.
“This is a technology that gets very close to the patient,” Travis said. “Today, everyone is getting very comfortable with wearable technology. Well, now we’re taking it one step further, and we’re saying, you’re not only going to wear something, you’re going to swallow it.”
etectRx believes it can miniaturize the reader device to fit in an activity band or the band of a smartwatch, Travis explained, so it just becomes a part of the user’s “normal technical ecosystem of wearable tracking devices.”
He sees the technology as being of interest to both drug manufacturers and insurance companies, since both parties are interested in making sure that drugs are taken as prescribed.
Over the next year, Travis said the company will be working on establishing partnerships throughout the pharmaceutical industry and testing different iterations of its product.
“But in the meantime, we are talking to and look forward to talking to many pharmaceutical manufacturers and to have them explore the technology, teach us about the adherence problems for their particular drug. Every drug is a little different. Every therapy situation is a little different. So the adherence challenges are unique to each therapy. So we learn something every time we talk to a new manufacturer.”