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20 Feb 2020

The game is on for connected devices

The future of value-added medicines will see gamification transforming the engagement of therapies.

Improving adherence to medication via smarter, patient-centric pharmaceutical packaging and extracting further value from existing medicines and delivery devices are two of the latest key strategies aimed at reducing waste and protecting the bottom line, according to experts at the recent Pharmapack Europe.

Europe’s leading pharmaceutical packaging and drug delivery event featured many innovations as well as novel drug delivery solutions. Key themes characterising this year's edition were waste management, connectivity and patient centricity.

A who’s who of pharma packaging and drug device innovators exhibited with several major new technologies and partnerships announced. Some of the most promising innovations, however, were presented by emerging companies in the Start-up Hub. Technologies feature included AI development platforms, miniaturized/non-intrusive sensors, vial/ampule combination devices and smart packaging.

The conference played host to four themed content sessions, and the learning labs and several educational and interactive workshops explored major industry changes that lie ahead. Aurelio Arias, Engagement Manager at IQVIA suggested during his session that "the future of value-added medicines is not just driven by deeper insights and data capture; it will also see gamification transforming engagement of therapies". Arias added that "while patients are concerned about the security and the custodianship of their data", they are still actively using connected devices. As a result, the natural evolution of this trend could be that healthcare companies will increasingly incentivise better compliance through gamification.

One area where connected devices perhaps lag behind other areas of pharma packaging and devices is in environmental impact. Gregor Anderson, Managing Director at Pharmacentric Solutions believes the industry still has a long way to go with regard to the sustainability of connected devices, commenting on "the duality of connected devices". On one hand, it is an exciting field of new possibilities, but on the other, the industry has not yet "fully married them with our sustainability goals". He believes that is the next evolution for the industry in the year ahead, as more devices and technologies move into commercial applications.

In the ‘Challenges in Drug Delivery for Biologics’ session, experts agreed that combining biologic drug and device development, while meeting regulatory standards, is a significant learning curve for the industry. Overall, drug delivery was seen as increasingly integral to the growth of the biologics market, with patient centricity an essential component in adherence. In the short term, this is projected to push manufacturers to provide better devices that ease the patient experience. But in the long term, experts postulated connected devices will play a major role in the advancement of the biologics industry.

In the ‘New Horizons in Innovation’ session, Marc Rohrschneider, Head of New Technologies, Device Development and Commercialisation at Novartis AG predicted that with pharma now having access to technology to connect boxes, vials and devices to networks, the next decade is not about the technology challenges; instead, it will explore how the industry safeguards data, and ultimately, who is its custodian. Blockchain is another industry buzzword of the last year, but experts at Pharmapack point to the improved accountability it could provide in pharma supply as its most immediate use, rather than in securing patient data. “You should think of it as the most secure audit trail you can have. Immutable, temporal and despite what many have said, scalable” commented Jason Lacombe, CEO, Veratrak. But the key to delivering on its potential is for pharma and tech communities to work closer together to deliver over the hype.

Silvia Forroova, Brand Director at Pharmapack Europe commented: “In the last few years, as our Pharmapack agenda is testament to, we have seen the rise of truly patient-centric delivery forms, increasingly smart and child-safe packaging, and a growing awareness of the vital role we can play in bringing about a more environmentally friendly industry. But what we are also seeing is that by bringing different groups together we are reinventing the art of the possible. It’s one of the greatest strengths of Pharmapack that we provide a platform to help build networks and communities, share learning and celebrate new innovations. Our experience of this event in 2020 is that the industry looks well set for growth in the year ahead and we can expect to see more collaborations in an age when the delivery of products is changing quickly. This is great news for drug delivery and packaging companies, but even better news for patients.”

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