Wearable Drug Delivery - New International Conference

Published on: 1st December 2017

Malcolm Boyd of DCA’s Medical Sector team attended the inaugural international conference on Wearable Drug Delivery, organised by The Management Forum, in London on 16th – 17th October 2017. In this overview of the conference, Malcolm summarises key thoughts from the discussions and presentations.

‘Wearable technology’ brings to mind everything from Fitbits to the latest smart connected watch to heads-up displays embedded in contact lenses and more. The picture is nearly as wide when considering wearable drug delivery technology. Topics at the Management Forum’s first Wearable Drug Delivery conference covered technology advances in insulin pumps, transdermal patches, micro needle patches and patch pumps / large volume body worn injectors – collectively an already extensive and expanding field.

Several key themes came through from the conference; the first being that although familiar from decades of insulin pump developments, the wider field of wearable drug delivery devices is still a new and evolving market, and possibly even a diverging market given the multiple different applications and interpretations of ‘wearable’. Consequently, innovation in this area does not fit into a well-defined or established box. Consideration therefore needs to be given to the different standards, regulations, and guidelines that apply or could potentially apply to a particular development - bearing in mind that some of these may still only be early drafts.

Secondly, and linked to the inherent characteristic of a wearable device, is the potential for users/patients to be mobile. This brings with it a range of advantages and opportunities, and not surprisingly, some new challenges. One key advantage is the potential to treat patients in the comfort of their own home, more in tune with their daily life or over relatively longer periods of time, saving additional trips to hospital and allowing patients a new level of flexibility and comfort, whilst freeing up valuable care time in hospitals. This is also equally applicable in the field of clinical trials, a topic covered in several presentations, where wearable technology in this instance predominantly refers to being able to monitor and gather more data from study participants, only achievable through significant advancements in wearable sensors.

Connectivity / connected devices and associated apps was also referred to in many of the presentations and discussions at the conference. A key theme across all of the healthcare industry, the advancement in low power wireless technology and developments in the low power cellular landscape coupled with increased processing power, memory, and integration improvements, continue to facilitate many new opportunities in connected healthcare. Not limited to just wearable drug delivery devices, the key points raised included consideration of training aids, adherence monitoring and feedback, therapy ecosystems and social interaction, and increasingly rich clinical trial data (resulting from enhanced sensors and monitoring); and associated with all of these is the drive for clean, clear, and engaging, user experiences, through supporting apps. Connected technology was not the focus of the conference, however discussing advancements in wearable drug delivery devices coupled with growing expectations of the consumer mean that it is likely to be an inextricably linked technology in future developments. One closing comment that was made in the context of the user and connectivity stood out as a good reminder for those considering new connected product briefs….the availability of new sensors and connected functionality may make for a technically amazing device; but ultimately if a patient won’t wear the device or interact and engage with the app, it may not be a very successful product.

In summary, with wearable, connected, technology and the associated availability of data blooming in nearly every corner of life, how the healthcare industry defines and controls the multitude of applications is evolving. Staying aware and in tune with those regulations that could apply to your development is key to efficient progress and ultimately success. In conjunction with this, each wearable device has the potential to be part of a connected healthcare / therapy ecosystem, offering extensive new data and therefore new insights into patient adherence, therapy management and much more. With such interrelated systems and data, we expect that this will facilitate a shift in healthcare economics, with changes already being seen through models like outcome driven reimbursement.  As such wearable, connected, products and systems are developed, we need to strive to maximise their benefits and value through intelligent application of appropriate elements of new technology, considering all stakeholders, in order to optimize the advancement of healthcare, particularly drug delivery in this instance, in the future.