The HealthXL Sprint 2-part meeting series connects senior leaders across our community to solve the latest health challenges. In our most recent sprint we discussed the current state of DTx-Pharma partnerships and what the future looks like. In this blog we’ve pulled out the top takeaways from this series.
5 Key Recommendations:
Digital Therapeutic (DTx) companions are a clear route for DTx-Pharma partnerships to begin: Partnerships between DTx companies and pharma may initially focus on DTx companions because they will generate evidence for the real world use to feed back into the drug discovery phase. DTx companies should recognise where they can add value to a pharmaceutical product or franchise. The position that pharma takes may depend on whether the DTx can support their go-to-market strategy or if it is a competitor. Pharma may have more appetite for companion type platforms that would help support their therapeutic areas and pharmaceuticals. A DTx solution that can help capture patient data, potentially reinforce the use and continuous prescribing of the pharmaceutical, and offer post treatment monitoring for drug reactivation may fit better into the current ecosystem. However, whilst a companion is a clear and obvious route, there’s value to both standalone and combination DTx products. For pharma, DTx partnerships can be a strategic way to diversify their portfolios.
Clinical evidence should go hand-in-hand with any Pharma-DTx partnership strategy: Clinical evidence is the nature of pharma business. DTx companies need to have more competencies to provide valid clinical evidence and be open to speaking the language of clinical trials and clinical outcomes if they are looking to engage with pharma. If necessary, some pharma companies may support DTx companies in gaining evidence if they have the courage to try to create it and fail. Clinical evidence is only going to become more important as the market becomes more saturated. Digital products improve dynamically after they reach the market, providing an opportunity to collect real world evidence to support updates and product improvements across its lifespan. This reinforces the importance of DTx companies having competencies in discussing clinical evidence.
Seek a mentor to navigate the pharma organization: DTx companies have insight into the concept of a digital relationship to people with disease. This insight is underrepresented to some of the stakeholders in pharma. Day-to-day budget holders and decision makers in organizations may be separate from the conversation or may not always be able to see the long term value proposition of DTx, even if there’s senior management support. This brings up challenges for accessing the right gateway within the organization. There is an opportunity for DTx companies to seek a mentor as an executive sponsor and digital health advocate to help navigate the organization.
Adoption of a DTx by the Healthcare Providers (HCPs) is important: Engaging HCPs needs to be strongly prioritized if the parma-DTx partnership is to be successful. Whether the DTx route to market is direct to consumer (D2C) or via a Provider, and even if the DTx is reimbursed and has a framework prepared, there needs to be a strategy in place to encourage HCPs to change their habits before they prescribe, recommend or use the DTx. A balance between cost and revenue of the DTx might be agreed upon at pharma management level. However, this does not always prove resilient when attempting to get HCPs to adopt the solution. Simplistically, in order to engage HCPs, a minimal friction environment platform must be created and clinical outcomes from the DTx should be available in the HCP’s electronic health record (EHR). However, HCPs are only one of the key stakeholders. Engagement of patients and users will also be a key component of success.
Timing is everything: Pharma companies are still at an early stage in their understanding of DTx, but are reticent about the use of DTx upstream in the development cycle. Digital health teams in pharma are asked to bring in DTx much later in the process, but it is not enough to approach DTx as a case finding tool when drug exclusivity runs out. Pharma teams on the commercial side and teams on the clinical trials side need to engage more to get DTx incorporated earlier in the pharmaceutical stage to span R&D, clinical trials and commercial thinking.
DTx-Pharma partnerships are nascent and the strategy is only starting to become well defined. These partnerships need to be more patient-focused and business oriented. The patient's needs must always come first and the ideal partnership will drive better outcomes by promoting the intervention without negatively affecting drug sales.
DTx platforms need to be interoperable and easy to use. Rather than numerous point solutions, HCPs need a simple solution that fits into their current workflow. Solutions that address common comorbidities may be easier to adopt and more likely to gain tracking with HCPs. If this approach fails in the short-term, platforms that address general symptoms across multiple therapeutic areas may find more success with HCPs.
Experts included: Bernhard Kappe (Founder & CEO, Orthogonal), Daphne Petrich (Senior Business Development Manager, HelloBetter), Deepti Warad (Senior Clinical Trial Physician, BMS), Joseph Rubinsztain (CEO, ChronWell), Karine Soulat (Marketing Consultant on health and ehealth, Ke-Health), Katie Cannon (Head of Growth, Avegen), Kevin Darcy (Director, Link Strategy, Veeva Systems), Laura Carlin (Head of Strategic Alliances, ieso), Matt Norton (VP of Marketing & Commercial Development, S3 Connected Health) Michael Heupel (Head of Pharma & MedTech, Flying Health), Omri Shor (Founder & CEO, Medisafe), Quake Pletcher (Sr. Director, Digital Health Partnership Management, Eli Lilly and Company), Vasyl Pyrozhyk (VP Healthcare, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation), and Aislinn Mc Phillips (Digital Health Analyst, HealthXL).
*All opinions are the participants’ own and do not necessarily reflect the stance of their respective employers.