Pear Therapeutics, a DTx company, announced a collaboration with etectRx, a developer of adhesion tools, by signing an agreement for the potential development of a product that combines the former’s digital therapies with a digital pill offering. The two companies will meet quarterly to discuss the potential involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in the project.
Valerie Sullivan, CEO of etectRx spoke about the companie’s joint intention to bring the product to the pharmaceutical industry with the aim of transforming the functioning of the market as well as clinical trials. She also spoke about the companies’ plans to comb through “clinicaltrials.gov and approach them, and say could a combined solution like ours advance our clinical trials?”
As this deal represents the first phase of the project, it is not yet known what the combined product will look like. What we do know is that it will focus on the mental health sphere.
Pear Therapeutics will bring its considerable expertise to the table, as it has already launched a range of mental health-focused solutions, including solutions for opioid abuse disorders, substance use disorders and chronic insomnia.
It is also very likely that this product will include etectRx’s ID-Cap System technology, which consists of a hard gelatine capsule with a built-in wireless ingestible sensor and a portable reader.
When the patient takes the pill, a tracking sensor is enabled, which then transmits the enrolment event data to the provider’s secure web portal via an intermediary application for the patient’s smartphone. Sullivan also discussed the possibility of connecting the data to a digital prescription therapy platform for the patient to view. She also explained how the project will develop in line with what is happening right now in the life sciences market.
“We are going to tailor our product to [pharma’s] needs. We really want to be listening to pharma, because we know they know what they are doing. But we know they could use some help in the clinical trials area, because a lot of their trials fail, and that wastes resources. A lot of the failure is because patients just don’t take their meds,” she said.
Optimising Clinical Trials
Focusing on the improvement of clinical trials but also the need for greater transparency for the patients regarding their conditions.
The partnership aims to empower patients to treat themselves and analyse their own behaviour. The collaboration with digital therapy allows Pear to potentially integrate into its application the confirmation of drug ingestion to provide transparency for the patient and increased accuracy in clinical trials.
The Need for a Detail-Driven Development
In December 2019, etectRx’s ID-Cap system received 510(k) clearance from the FDA, with the technology having already been successfully used at Brigham and Women’s to monitor adherence to opioids and in an HIV drug study.
Yet the digital pill industry has had a challenging journey in recent years. One of the most prominent companies specialising in the forward-thinking field was Proteus.In 2017, the company joined forces with the pharmaceutical company Otsuka to develop Abilify MyCite, a treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and certain forms of depression, and seemed to be set for a promising future. But following a $100 million financing round that didn’t go as planned, the company was forced to lay off the majority of its employees, while Otsuka was announcing that it was distancing itself from the health technology company. In June 2020, the company filed for bankruptcy.
EtectRx differentiates its technology by the fact that its digital pill does not require the use of a 24/7 monitoring patch, making it potentially more likely to be a viable technological solution.
For its part, Pear has had its own challenges. Earlier this week, Novartis released the results of a clinical trial of Pear Therapeutics’ digital therapy for schizophrenia, with disappointing results.
The trial found no difference in the measurement of the primary outcome, namely the reduction of schizophrenia symptoms. Corey McCann, Pear’s CEO, acknowledged that the results were disappointing, but also cited “methodological problems” which he said were not mentioned.