Looking for a respiratory edge, Boehringer teams with Propeller to test 'smart inhaler' for adherence

Respiratory drugmakers are partnering with tech companies right and left, determined not to be left out in the cold as their rivals search for ways to get ahead in the crowded field. And now, it's Boehringer Ingelheim unveiling a new pact.

Propeller Health's mobile platform--Courtesy of Propeller Health

Last week, Madison, WI-based Propeller Health said it had teamed up with the German pharma to invite BI's asthma and COPD patients to join a study assessing Propeller's smart inhaler and its impact on adherence. The device platform tracks how and when patients use their inhalers, and it can send alerts to both patients and their caregivers.

Boehringer and Propeller first joined hands in 2013 to develop a Bluetooth-enabled sensor that wraps around the pharma's Respimat inhaler. But with the next step--a commercial pact Propeller is calling the "first of its kind"--the pair aims to "create some of the real-world market experience of our technology so the providers will be willing to provide it, the patients will be willing to adopt a sensor and basically drive adherence," Ruchin Kansal, executive director and head of business innovation at BI, told mobihealthnews.

Boehringer certainly isn't the only company looking to real-world data to build its case for payers. Companies rolling out pricey new drugs--such as Novartis ($NVS) with heart-failure med Entresto, and Amgen ($AMGN) with PCSK9 contender Repatha--have touted pay-for-performance pricing to score in the reimbursement department. And Boehringer knows how hard it can be to hang onto payers' favor; rival GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) recently negotiated its way into an exclusive deal with CVS Health ($CVS) for its Medicare Part D formulary--which consequently dropped BI's LAMA med Spiriva and combo drug Stiolto.

Meanwhile, plenty of Boehringer's competitors are jumping on the smart inhaler bandwagon, too. In December, Propeller struck a development agreement with Glaxo to create a custom sensor for its Ellipta inhaler, and the following month, Novartis said it would collaborate with Qualcomm ($QCOM) to develop a next-gen version of Breezhaler, a device used with each of the meds in the Swiss pharma giant's COPD portfolio.

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