San Francisco, CA — Baba Shetty, Syneos Health Commercial Solutions Chief Strategy Officer, headed up a panel at the 2019 Digital Medicine and MedTech showcase on the growing promise of digital therapeutics, or DTx.  These cutting-edge treatments are software programs that can be prescribed to prevent or treat diseases. Shetty’s panel featured DTx developers, investors, and other healthcare experts on the frontlines of the burgeoning field. With so many stakeholders believing in the potential of DTx to revolutionize medicine, Shetty raised a question about a possible roadblock: is the market prepared for DTx? The answer, it seems, is neither yes nor no, and panelists weighed in from a number of different perspectives. 

“Perhaps we have a ways to go,” said Susan Cantrell, CEO of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy. “[The market] seems to be evolving quickly, and that works against us in some ways. There is a lot of preparation that could take place.  We have discussions among our members about the internal challenges of getting to payment…We have work to do there.”

Panelist Megan Coder, Executive Director of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, highlighted that DTx are closely in line with extant market trends, especially the market’s renewed focus on “treating the holistic patient,” in her words. “A drug has a targeted mechanism of action. So do DTx. But it’s possible to look at DTx in a more holistic way and treat the whole patient.” What Coder means is that there are many new aspects of the patient experience that DTx enable professionals to evaluate. As she said, “You can start to assess what are their behavioral issues, what are their depression issues, how is their mobility? What are the other things that fit around the idea of the whole patient? It’s no longer focusing on one thing and ignoring what we can’t treat.” Given this unique promise of DTx, even in the face of a somewhat unprepared market, Coder believes that “there’s a willingness to make it happen.” 

It bears mentioning that, like Cantrell, Coder is a pharmacist by training. “You have two pharmacists on the panel and you think, why?” Cantrell said. “Well, that’s a potential partner in the healthcare chain to look at. Can we bring pharmacists into [DTx] and ensure uptake, interest, and preparation of market? Exciting—but we do have a ways to go.”

Pear Therapeutics Chief Medical Officer Yuri Maricich, alongside Akili VP of Strategy Vincent Hennemand, highlighted the health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) they perform, to prepare providers to offer DTx. “We do a lot of HEOR. Whenever possible, we try to embed hard metrics that payers, medical directors at plans will be looking at,” Maricich said.  “It’s important to be thinking about that early on—showing that data can be replicated outside a traditional clinical trial.”

“We’re not sure how [our therapy] would be used by physicians,” said Hennemand, “so we want to inject our technology into the model of care and see how it works. All of that will be available to physicians and payers at the time of negotiating price.”

Our Perspective

As explained in the 2019 Health Trend Ten from Syneos Health, brands launching their first therapies often miss out on tremendous value by postponing initial investments. In fact, in our comparison of 19 biopharmaceutical companies launching their first products, brands that spent a minimum of 75% of their launch-year-forecasted revenue during L-1 had higher rates of launch success. Not a single company that spent less than 75% of their launch-year-forecasted revenue in L-1 achieved a successful launch. All of this is to say: the importance of market preparation cannot be understated, and it’s even more crucial in an entirely new category of therapeutic. 

The introduction of DTx into the market forces us to re-examine many staples of the healthcare landscape, especially when it comes to payers and reimbursement. But the development of DTx marks a turning point in medical history: health systems, and all of their stakeholders, must be prepared to accommodate these new therapies that will soon be ready to change the lives of millions. 

Read more of our perspectives about digital therapeutics: what they look like and what’s needed to make them available to the public by clicking here. You can read an executive summary of our upcoming report here.

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.