The World Health Organization estimates that 235 million people are affected by asthma worldwide. The simplest trigger can make a normal day into a wheezing nightmare. One pharmaceutical company is infusing its clinical trials with groundbreaking technology to improve asthma treatment.
As one of the largest pharmaceutical enterprises in the world, GSK is always testing and reworking their products. They track trial patients’ results through a few digital tools. Adherence monitors, electronic diaries, and biosensors “speak” to each other while collecting and reporting data to further GSK’s understanding of its patients.
GSK’s inhaler incorporates a respiratory monitoring sensor from Propeller Health, a health tech company, which can be easily attached. Once mounted on the inhaler, users receive usage data and insight into their triggers on their smartphones. This helps researchers deduct patterns in patients that use “rescue inhalers” frequently. These quick relief options can muddle data collected through older research methods. The sensor can detect the amount of rescue medication a patient uses giving more accurate results.
The sensor can be used similarly for detecting regular inhaler use. Dave Allen, head of respiratory research and development at GSK, explains that people are more likely to report when they should use an inhaler, not when they actually do. The sensor can then track the level of medicine they are taking, rather than collecting information based on a general schedule such as “twice a day.”
Another way GSK collects information for its trials is through ePRO, or electronic patient reported outcomes systems. Instead of speaking to a researcher, patients can enter their symptoms into an app in real-time. ePro systems save time on meeting with a researcher and remove the subjectivity of remembering every detail. GSK can then mine the data for patterns in individuals and large sample sizes.
Running trials is expensive and leads to greater treatment costs for patients. By improving their research methods, GSK hopes it can lower the cost of clinical trials and eventually provide better and cheaper drugs to those who need it.