Much of Dr. Todd Hobbs’ life has centered around diabetes – he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes roughly 30 years ago and now he is the father of a child with diabetes. At his Kentucky-based primary care practice, he took on diabetic patients and helped manage their care.
And when he made the jump from the clinic to the pharmaceutical industry 15 years ago, he accepted a job at Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO). He now serves as VP & CMO of the insulin-maker’s North America unit.
Between his work as a doctor and as an executive, he has watched healthcare trends come and go. The one that he’s keeping a close eye on nowadays? Digital health.
“I will say pharmaceutical companies for many years have really relied on simply creating a better molecule, better science, and there wasn’t that digital platform that they had to address,” he told Drug Delivery Business News. “Now, I think that a company would be very naïve not to think about how patients are going to receive the information around the products and how they’re gonna receive information around care.”
Bringing the emerging tools of the digital age into the well-established business model of the pharmaceutical industry is no easy task, Hobbs noted.
“We’ve been working on creating insulin and providing those product solutions for almost 95 years now. So to suddenly try and become experts in an area that we weren’t really experts in, from a science perspective, has not been easy,” he said. “But we’ve learned that partnerships with Glooko and others that we’ve already done and those that we’re going to pursue are probably the key to success in the digital arena.”
Novo Nordisk waded into the digital healthcare trend with an app, Cornerstones4Care, which is powered by technology from diabetes data management company Glooko. The C4C app uses Glooko’s tech to sync data from an array of diabetes devices and cultivate insights that help users manage their blood sugar levels more effectively.
Information is the key to successfully managing diabetes, Hobbs explained, and technology is helping doctors educate their patients in a way that was impossible when he was practicing medicine.
“The patients who are educated the most about their disease, diabetes in particular, do better,” he said. “But there’s no one solution that’s going to fit every patient. That’s what we try to do with Cornerstone4Care – the Glooko app is hopefully going to be able to help many patients, but we’re going to continue to explore other ways to give them what they’re asking for and not try to overwhelm those patients who may not need something as intense as [continuous glucose monitoring]. It’s just providing for the need of that individual patient.”
The information culled from heaps of patient data isn’t just helping users better manage their diabetes – it could also help pharmaceutical companies understand how their drugs are being used in a real-world setting.
“There is a huge demand for, as close to the time of approval for a new product as possible, to really start looking at and generating and analyzing the real-world use of these products,” Hobbs said. “How can we use patient data and large-scale datasets to help improve real-world outcomes?”
Other partnerships are also informing Novo Nordisk’s development process, according to Hobbs. Automated insulin delivery systems, which have been in the works by medical device companies for many years, demand faster insulin and Novo Nordisk has partnered with medical technology groups to evaluate how their drugs respond to these novel systems.
“There are many different proprietary algorithms for how they adjust, on a minute-by-minute basis, the rate of insulin delivery,” Hobbs said. “The needs [of the medical technology industry] are going to drive where some of the development goes in the pharmaceutical industry.”