Do you wear a Fitbit or Apple watch? If you do, you are part of the growing movement that is embracing wearable technology. Right now, the global market for wearable technology is estimated to be about $2 billion per year. Projections are that by 2020 the market will grow to $41 billion. That means in just four years the global market for wearable technologies in the pharmaceutical industry will expand by an astonishing compounded annual growth rate of 65%. The majority of this wearable technology is specifically for the health care industry.
What Is Driving the Growth of Wearable Technologies?
On a global level, the biggest anticipated growth is focused on:
- Sleep Disorders; and
- Cardiovascular Disease
What Health Wearables Are Available Now?
The first healthcare wearable technology was invented in 1938. It was the first battery powered hearing aid that was made by the Aurex Company that was based in Chicago. Fast forward to today and we find loads of wearable health technology. But, most of this technology is does monitoring tasks such as recording blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep. Recording devices have proven popular with consumers, particularly those people who are fitness enthusiasts. There are loads of patient apps available for monitoring purposes.
Wearable health technology that actively participates in managing diseases is only just beginning to emerge. This opens new markets to health care providers, and pharmaceutical companies should take notice and develop this market. Why? One reason is that estimates for the growth of this market show it is exploding. In fact, 88% of physicians surveyed say they want their patients to monitor their health characteristics at home. Besides doing monitoring, some of the wearable health care technology now available include:
Addam is a wearable technology for asthma that attaches to the body with a small adhesive patch. Sensors in Addam detect an asthma patient's symptoms and keeps track of them. Symptoms include respiration patterns, cough rate, temperature, and heart rate. This device notifies patients when their symptoms that are out of line with their norms. The device vibrates to alert patients and send a text to a person chosen by the wearer.
- Pharmaceutical company UCB in trials for a wearable sensor that records symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. The company believes that the quality of the data collected will be more accurate than the data provided by patient logs or diaries during clinical trials.
- The FreeStyle Libre, made by Abbott is a two piece system that measures the blood glucose levels of diabetic patients. The sensor is a small disc that attaches to the patient’s body. The sensor sends information to a receiver or Android phone that is not attached to the patient. Each replacement disc has a lifespan of 14 days. The system is painless and can be set to check blood glucose levels as often as needed. Abbott says the new system allows for patients to see trends in their blood sugar and quickly make changes in diet when the trend is to high blood sugar levels.
- The iTBra is a smart bra insert that fits into a woman’s brassiere. There are two sensors, one for each breast that measures circadian temperature differences as a means of early detection of breast cancer. The system uses advanced machine learning predictive analytic software. The manufacturer, Cyrcadia Health Solution, designed it to use a set of algorithms that are able to identify and classify abnormal circadian (sleep related) patterns in breast tissue which can be a reliable suggestion for breast cancer.
- The Omnipod Insulin Management System is made by Insulet and holds as many as 200 insulin doses. This is one of the earlier proactive medical devices on the market. It was first approved and sold in 2005. The Omnipod is made up of a tubeless disposable insulin pump and a “Personal Diabetes Manager” that wirelessly signals the insulin pump when insulin is scheduled. It also helps by the diabetic patient with calculating the patient’s insulin levels and measuring the patient’s blood glucose level.
Wearable Devices and Clinical Trials
According to Gartner research, the market for wearable technology for use in clinical trials will be evident in only 10% of clinical trials. The research behemoth believes that:
“A plethora of formidable hurdles lie ahead, including a challenging infrastructure, as well as validation, security, privacy and protocol development issues,” according to researchers. “Nevertheless, plenty of potential players are checking out the boundaries of what they foresee could be a lucrative market.”
UBC is an innovative biopharmaceutical company. Nevertheless, they alert blog readers that wearables for clinical trials will take time:
“The majority of current wearables are considered consumer products. As such, they are not heavily regulated by the FDA because they do not pose a risk and generally are utilized to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Now that consumer wearables are widely used by people of all ages, the data needs to be validated and FDA-approved for use in clinical trials. Some estimates predict we are still up to two years away from wearables making a huge impact in the trial space.”
Why Pharma Companies Must Pay Attention to The Wearable Market
When the clinical trial use of wearable technology becomes more ubiquitous in the clinical trial space, pharma companies that partner with an eHealth device maker can see huge savings in the cost of clinical trials. Data collection, medication reminders, and even medication wearable dosing technology can mostly be accomplished remotely. This saves on the cost of clinical trial personnel and is more convenient for trial participants.
Additionally, pharma companies that develop wearable technology that administers medicine or partners with a company that does, may see increased market share for their injectables as they will negate the need for a physician office visit.
Pharma companies will find new uses for wearable technologies and force new pharma website design for patients using wearable technology on their physician's advice or as a trial participant.
wearable technologies in pharmaceutical industry