The Smart Inhaler Market: Getting Bigger with New Players

MARCH 06, 2018
I love the idea of the smart sensor enabled inhaler. It seems like a no-brainer, you push a button (or related mechanic with an inhaler device), and drugs come out. How do you capture that data and use it for medication adherence? 
 
I've written before about other companies in this space, how companies and pharmacists are using them, and how the market has been evolving over the past few years, but there have been some exciting developments worth recapping.

One is that the New Zealand-based company Adherium will start selling their sensors directly to consumers in the US market in 2018.1 Adherium has an interesting history, working with AstraZeneca for their clinical trials and other companies for research. The aspect of having these devices on pharmacy shelves or covered by insurance companies is a new avenue for potential profits for them. The subscription service will cost about $10 a month, but no quotes for how much each sensor will cost. 
 
This will put them in competition with other companies, such as Propeller Health, which have been popping up on adds on my Facebook feed as of late. The market is large so that a little competition won't hurt. Though I imagine the companies will have to showcase those devices that are most straightforward to use, the cost will be the big push for consumers. It could potentially get costly, because looking at the current guidelines and the number of inhalers a patient has, this could range between 2 and 4 devices easily, and that's not adding on a bunch of rescue inhalers that patients like to stow away at different locations.
 
The second item is that a new company from Germany is working to bring their smart inhalers to the market as well. Their platform, called Respiro, will seek to work with pharma and other companies to package inhalers with sensors and be part of a clinical suite to help guide respiratory disease monitoring and management.2 Again, it's another competitor in a growing market and will have to be seen how they compete with others.
 
For me, the impact on pharmacy is twofold. The first issue is that we are entering an era where medications are going to start coming as part of a collective technology integration package.  We see that with the recent FDA approval of Otsuka's Abilify MYCITE, which will pave the way for other drugs to have embedded biosensors that detect when someone swallows their meds. The inhaler market and injectable market are just next. The other pressing concern I have is what this means for pharmacists. We dispense the drugs, but do we have to play tech support? Does that require further training or knowledge we currently don't prepare for? And if this stuff starts selling on our shelves, should we recommend it for patients? For a patient that uses their SABA rescue multiple times, this could be a device of practical use to track when exacerbations are occurring and when to potentially make changes or tack on additional therapy, or even to step down on treatment. At the end of the day, it's a fantastic time to see how drugs are changing with technology.
 
 
References:
  1. Smartinhaler maker Adherium heads to the US market with D2C push. Mobihealthnews. January 24, 2018. Accessed at: http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/smartinhaler-maker-adherium-heads-us-market-d2c-push.
  2. Sanner, Amiko detail partnership targeting novel medication adherence strategies. Mobihealthnews. February 13, 2018. Accessed at: http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/sanner-amiko-detail-partnership-targeting-novel-medication-adherence-strategies
 


Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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