European regulators gave Novartis and Propeller Health the green light to co-package their products, opening the door for digital health products and medications to be prescribed together for the first time.
Propeller Health makes sensors that attach to inhalers. The software monitors patient adherence and can also be used to track what triggers asthma flare-ups. The long-standing digital health company works with many of the largest inhaler companies, and struck a partnership with Novartis back in 2017.
The approval was centered around the use of Novartis’ Enerzair Breezhaler inhaler, which is used to treat uncontrolled asthma. In July, regulators with the European Commission allowed Propeller to package its solution with the inhaler. The companies plan to launch their co-branded solution this year.
Typically, patients purchased or received a prescription for Propeller’s solution after they got their inhaler. With the co-packaging agreement, Propeller might not have to market it as much for patients to find it.
“This just brings the whole thing a lot closer to what people are doing and how they’re used to getting a treatment,” Propeller CEO and Co-Founder David Van Sickle said in a phone interview. “We think the whole onboarding process will be more convenient and easier for people to work through. Honestly, we’re hoping it does spur a change in digital health more generally.”
While Propeller’s solution has FDA clearance to be sold over-the-counter or prescribed, it does not yet have the needed approval to co-package its products in the U.S.
The partnership with Novartis is one of many solutions to make digital therapeutics easier to prescribe. Last year, Express Scripts approved 15 solutions for its first digital health formulary, which would make it much easier for physicians to find those solutions in their EMR and prescribe them. Propeller was one of the companies listed on the formulary.
Other digital health companies have devised systems that would allow patients’ to “unlock” their treatment on their phone after it is prescribed. Akili Interactive, which recently gained FDA clearance for its video game to treat ADHD, is using this approach.
“It does feel like things are changing to put digital health to work in new arrangements. At the same time, we’re working to put digital health alongside medications in the traditional supply chain too,” Van Sickle said.