Novartis works with app maker to help eye patients 'See What's Next'

Novartis tapped smartpatient's MyTherapy app for a "See What’s Next" module to help patients manage their age-related macular degeneration. (smartpatient)

Novartis wants to help patients overcome the hurdles in specialized eye disease treatment with the help of a new digital tool.

The Swiss drugmaker worked with disease management app company smartpatient to create an adherence and education module inside the MyTherapy app specifically for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients. Called "See What’s Next," the new feature includes information and resources to help patients better understand and manage their condition.

Novartis initially reached out to smartpatient when it noticed a pattern of patients who would come in for one or two injections of its anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy treatment Beovu, but not return.

Any AMD patient can access the module with a link from their ophthalmologist. “See What’s Next” is currently available in Italy and Spain, with other markets to follow.

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While the obvious deterrent to the Beovu AMD treatment is a needle stick to the eye to administer the drug, other less apparent hurdles include a lack of understanding and education. There are a limited number of retinal specialists in AMD and thus a dearth of education about the disease, smartpatient CEO Sebastian Gaede said.

Gaede was impressed that Novartis wanted the platform to not just focus on its products, but become an educational tool for everyone living with AMD. Other treatments for wet AMD include Regeneron's Eylea, Novartis' chief competitor.

The MyTherapy app is a fast-growing medication disease management app with partners including Novartis, Pfizer and Merck. The app’s goal is to offer one place for all a patient’s health needs across multiple treatments and conditions, Gaede said. He describes MyTherapy as a “to-do list” for disease management, covering pill schedules, appointments and healthy activities.

While other health pharma apps have struggled to connect with users, the average MyTherapy user is active three times a day, Gaede said. It was that idea of adherence that Gaede, a trained economist, was interested in.

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“This kind of behavioral challenge just struck me that people are making decisions which are so much to their disadvantage, and we get to the disadvantage of not only them personally but also to the society and healthcare of all and, and in many cases, those decisions are driven by a lack of understanding," he said.

There are more pharma-connected modules for the app on the way, and, while Gaede declined to talk specifics, he did say he is talking to companies working in oncology, women’s health and even virtual trials.

“Pharma is realizing that digital does have the opportunity to really improve outcomes and create a measurable impact on outcomes,” he said.