Not All “Digital Drug” Therapies Are Created Equal

Lux recently spoke with Chrono Therapeutics, developer of a digital smoking cessation program that incorporates a transdermal patch for timed drug delivery, a digital compliance platform, and virtual behavioral support. Chrono looks to combine innovation in drug delivery with digital tools to – it claims – double or even triple the quit rate achieved via traditional nicotine patches. Lux has spoken with other companies who characterize themselves, or whom others characterize, as developers of digital drug therapeutics, too; they include Medimetrics Personalized Drug Delivery, Proteus Digital Health, and Pear Therapeutics, and with $47 million invested in Chrono Therapeutics, $40 million in Proteus Digital Health, and $20 million in Pear Therapeutics – all in the last year – the digital drug space is gaining traction. However, through our conversation with David Matley, VP of Business Development at Chrono, a not-less-important insight than the value of digital surfaced: the term “digital drug therapy” is commonly used, though by different parties to mean different things.

Digital therapies can be categorized as falling into one of two groups: “medication augmentation” or “medication replacement.” However, as evident by the work of Chrono, Pear, Proteus, and Medimetrics, even just within the former category alone there is variability. Below we provide a framework highlighting different aspects of digitization within the broader “digital medication augmentation” category, to help sort through the hype of seemingly-similar solutions:

It becomes evident from the framework above – which denotes drug delivery, compliance measurement, and behavioral support as three primary sources of digitization within the digital drug augmentation space – that notable solutions in this space generally digitize only one aspect of drug therapy. For example, Proteus developed a digital therapy adherence and efficacy monitoring system that incorporates an ingestible sensor and an external monitoring patch, whereas Pear Therapeutics is developing clinical behavioral therapies that combine digital interventions with traditional, “nondigital” medications. An exception to this is Chrono Therapeutic’s system, which offers novel drug delivery mechanism alongside digital behavioral support and compliance measurement. With that said, it should be noted that even within a single aspect of drug therapy (e.g. delivery, compliance measurement, behavioral support) not all digitization efforts are created equal. For example, by using contact with body fluid as an indication for a pill-swallowing event, Proteus’s solution provides a fairly precise way of monitoring medication adherence; on the other hand, Chrono’s solution considers nicotine cartridge loading events as an indication that patient adhered to the therapy; however, in reality there could be edge cases where the cartridge loaded but the patch is not worn.

Readers should use the above framework to assess the novelty and truly hone in on the core innovation of existing “digital drug therapy” solutions. Furthermore, readers should use this framework to identify complementary solutions that together could offer multiple sources of value.