Pharma or medical device? A new global convergence

2019-01-22T08:06:24+00:00October 18th, 2018|

New advanced technologies are forcing pharmas to adapt, spelling great news for both the pharma and the medical device sectors.

Having operated for decades along well-worn tracks, the pharma industry is facing a welcome disruption. Spurred by a booming health economy, newly empowered patients, and the daily innovations of tech and healthcare, pharmas are finding new ways to become responsive, manage data, and adopt non-pharma technologies.

It’s a matter of long-term survival. Pharmas are part of a healthcare ecosystem already racing to the future. Drug marketing, while still a priority, fails to encompass the full needs of consumers, who expect ever more sophisticated health and wellness management.

This global transformation is far from merely clinical. As they shift their investment and R&D focus to incorporate disruptive innovations, drug companies are also revamping their pricing, product valuation, distribution, and payment models. Improving how drugs are administered, for example, can save billions of dollars in developed countries. Vaccine-releasing patches, long-acting HIV/AIDS drug implants, and other innovations will have as transformative an impact on pharma business as they will on large sections of the planet.

Enter medical devices for the win-win

More than any other phenomenon, the global trend that blurs the distinction between pharmaceutical products and medical devices indicates just how profound the change is. As the two industries become more collaborative and intertwined, pharma benefits from the dynamism of medtech, while medical devices benefit from the reach and resources of pharma.

By integrating the responsive capabilities of medical devices, pharmas are better able to personalize medicine based on patients’ individual needs, characteristics, preferences, and drug response. Patient-specific therapy choices, treatment regimens, and clinical decisions – all aided by medical devices – are helping to steer pharma towards more accurate and effective healthcare.

“More than any other phenomenon, the global trend that blurs the distinction between pharmaceutical products and medical devices indicates just how profound the change is”

A Case in Point: Allergan, acquisition of Oculeve dry eye disease treatment

Take the example of Allergan, which completed the acquisition of Oculeve, a developer of novel treatments for dry eye disease. Oculeve’s FDA-approved True Tear device, which increase the production of real tears in dry eye sufferers, has strengthened Allergan’s position in an underserved market – while still complementing Allergan’s existing dry-eye medication. The acquisition included additional products in Oculeve’s pipeline, indicating Allergan’s commitment to a pharma future that firmly incorporates medical devices.

Vibrant: A life-changing game-changer

At the apex of the pharma/device convergence are the (for now) select few devices that wholly replace medication, competing successfully where drugs have not provided adequate response for a variety of patients. A stellar representative in this category is Vibrant, a proprietary vibrating capsule that mimics the peristaltic wave mechanism, for the treatment of moderate to severe chronic constipation.

Both OTC and prescription pharmaceuticals, which work to lubricate the colon, provide limited relief to only 20% of patients, attended by uncomfortable side effects. In contrast, Vibrant has managed to provide chemical-free, side-effect-free, relief of constipation symptoms, thus offering significant improvement in quality of life to over 50% of constipation patients who participated in studies conducted in USA.

Based on three clinical trials, Vibrant has demonstrated clinical benefits with moderate to severe constipated patients. The latest results for the capsule show an excellent safety profile, no side effects, and superior dose–response relationship – with 5 caps per week providing improved Complete Spontaneous Bowel Movement (CSBM) frequency as compared to 2 caps per week. Additionally, symptoms such as Bristol stool rating (stool consistency), straining, and bloating improved.

Building on the capsule’s promising results, Vibrant is developing a new capsule that will operate differently in various sections of the colon, or only in selected sections, as per diagnosis and treatment protocol. This will boost dose response, enable non-responders to become effective responders, and provide desirable effects via the minimal dose of capsules per week.