Sleep scratcher? Nestlé Skin Health’s got an app for that

Nestlé Skin Health's new Itch Tracker app uses Apple Watch to log the frequency and severity of scratching episodes.

Nestlé Skin Health’s latest app tracks skin scratching, even when the scratcher isn’t aware he or she is doing it. That could be during sleep or with cognitively impaired patients, as it’s being used in a current Nestlé Skin Health study of Alzheimer’s patients.

Called Itch Tracker, the app works with the Apple Watch and measures both the number of scratching incidents and the duration. The app is free to download on the App Store, and Nestlé Skin Health is using the collected de-identified data in an ongoing general population study about itch. The app is also being used in a specific study of patients with Alzehimer’s disease to document itch frequency and severity.

The app was first launched in Japan, but it more recently bowed in North America and Europe, Didier Leclerg, managing director of the SHIELD skin health innovation network for NestléSkin Health, said in an interview. Already, it's had more than 1,000 downloads, with a greater response expected soon from the added countries. Study results are expected to be published by the end of the year.

The app can be used all the time, but Nestlé has "a specific interest in sleep time because one of the main problems with itch is sleep disruption,” Leclerg said. “…There is a need to objectively measure the severity, frequency and occurrence of itch.”

“We want to investigate potential factors that might affect, or be correlated with, scratching time during sleep," Nestlé Skin Health spokesman added in an email. "We aim at making the knowledge obtained by this survey serve for developing a better method to evaluate itch severity, which could help develop better treatments for itch in the future.”

While sales reps for Nestlé Skin Health’s Galderma medical dermatology will not actively push the app to healthcare providers, some doctors and dermatologists are using it to track patient symptoms and treatment effectiveness. Initial feedback from physicians in Japan has been enthusiastic and positive, Leclerg said.

Nestlé and L'Oréal founded Galderma as a joint venture in 1981, but the company was fully acquired by Nestle in 2014. It is now the medical dermatology arm of Nestlé Skin Health, which also includes consumer skin brands Cetaphil and Proactiv. Galderma drugs include acne treatment Epiduo, Miravaso and Soolantra for rosacea and dermal filler Restylane. Nestle Skin Health recently named Stuart Raetzman, the former CEO of Galderma, as the new CEO of the overall Nestlé Skin Health.

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