AAPS 2017

Smart devices to address unmet needs across pharma supply chain

By Melissa Fassbender

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/ipopba)
(Image: Getty/ipopba)

Related tags Supply chain Pharmacology

There are several opportunities for the industry to introduce connectivity into the pharmaceutical supply chain, but a one size fits all solution will likely not be the answer, says Novartis head.

At the AAPS Annual Meeting earlier this month, Gabriel Iobbi, PhD, device portfolio group head at Novartis Pharma Basel, led a symposium on the future for connectivity and smart devices – a space in which he said there are more questions than answers.

Adding Bluetooth to an auto-injector does not create a solution​,” said Iobbi, explaining that connectivity is a tool, not the answer. “First, we have to understand the problem​,” he said.

In discussing connected devices, Iobbi explained the whole ecosystems that is potentially involved must be included in addition to how value or benefits will be created. And the value isn’t just at the point of use, he said.

According to Iobbi, there are opportunities for connectivity to address unmet needs at “each step along the journey between manufacturing to disposal​.”

Most recently, the serialization initiative exemplifies this at the fill/finish and labeling step, he said. Further on in the supply chain, Iobbi asked how connectivity could help ensure a safe cold chain​.

At the point of distribution, patients could eventually scan a product label and have access to additional information on medications via “smart administration​.”

These are just a few examples looking across that journey​,” he said. Yet connectivity is often discussed as a potential solution to the challenge of patient adherence, which remains a huge cost burden, costing the US healthcare system $100-$300bn​ annually.

As an example, Iobbi referenced the HeartStrong Randomized Clinical Trial, ​which aimed to improve patient health and reduce costs using technology, such as wireless devices for pill bottles and mobile phones.

However, the study’s results​ explained the “compound intervention integrating wireless pill bottles, lottery-based incentives, and social support did not significantly improve medication adherence​” or readmission outcomes.

It’s not the technology but the behavior that we’re trying to adapt​,” said Iobbi, adding that a “one-size-fits-all​” technology is not likely going to be the solution.

We still need additional innovation when it comes to how we try to change behavior​,” he explained. “Behavior is difficult to change and not obvious​.”

As per unanswered questions, Iobbi asked who is going to become the hub for these types of smart systems. “Patients don’t want five different devices and five different solutions​,” he said. “Aligning our standing is the first step​.”

His advice? “Fall in love with the problem, not the technology solution​.”

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