Paris, France— Last week, pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and healthcare software pioneer Voluntis announced an expansion of their partnership focused on delivering digital therapy in the form of cutting-edge insulin titration tools. Their alliance aims to produce a suite of solutions, including a new mobile app designed to improve disease management in diabetes.

In the patient’s hands, the app will focus on improving decision-making in the real world, but on the back-end, it will enable the added benefit of remote disease monitoring by healthcare professionals. The app has been cleared by FDA and received the CE mark last year. Now the companies plan to launch pilot programs in North America and several European markets in the near term.

The Logic Behind This Approach…

At first glance, launching a digital therapy may seem like a strange move for a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, but recent evidence suggests that the countless new diabetic medicines launched in the past decade haven’t made a dent in the disease as a whole. In fact, a retrospective study published in the current issue of Diabetes Care, concluded “during the recent 8-year period, the use of glucose-lowering drugs has changed dramatically among patients with type 2 diabetes, [but] overall glycemic control has not improved and remains poor among nearly a quarter of the youngest patients.”

While the clinical data supporting the approval of newer therapies are strong, issues ranging from gaps in patient understanding to poor overall compliance can prevent even the best medications from being effective in the real world. Peter Guenter, EVP for Diabetes & Cardiovascular at Sanofi stated,

Despite the availability of new medicines for the treatment of diabetes, we see that outcomes are not sufficiently improving and that more than half of patients are not well controlled…With this in mind, Sanofi is focusing on a beyond-the-pill approach. We know that diabetes management is a 24/7 job, and we recognize that the right tools need to be developed to realize better outcomes. The long-term alliance we have with Voluntis will help us to reach that goal.”

Why This Matters—

Providing support “beyond the pill” has been a buzzword in our industry as long as anyone can remember, but this new partnership feels different. It stands as a brilliant example of an industry giant reading the writing on the wall and taking action to maintain leadership in the space. By merging pharmaceutical innovation with powerful new digital tools, this alliance may have lasting effects on more than just patient outcomes—it could help usher in a new era of accountable marketing. Eric Elliott, the Chairman of Voluntis, noted

Digital therapeutics allow manufacturers and payers to check whether agreed value metrics have been achieved and help to lower costs without compromising on patient outcomes and access. They ensure that prescription medications deliver the effects for which they were brought to market.“

What other healthcare partnerships will be forged in 2017, and will these new alliances actually improve real-world outcomes for patients?

About the Author:

Drew Beck has spent his entire career in healthcare — from direct patient care as an EMT in college to countless roles in pharma sales and global marketing for leading life science companies including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline. He is currently a leader on the Syneos Health Insights & Innovation team, a group charged with leveraging deep expertise in virtual collaboration, behavioral science, trends-based-innovation, custom research and global marketing insights.