Novartis seeks tech partners for brave new beyond-the-pill world

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez

Novartis ($NVS) hasn't been shy about digital. The Swiss drugmaker has rolled out app after app to help patients track their symptoms and stay on their drugs. But CEO Joe Jimenez says the company is about to do a lot more than that.

The company is scouting for technology that can pair up with its treatments in a powerful one-two punch against disease. As Jimenez tells Reuters, it's part of the company's effort to win over demanding payers, who want to know that products not only work in clinical trials, but deliver real-world results, too.

As Reuters notes, Novartis already made news by teaming up with Google to develop "smart" contact lenses that can track blood sugar levels in diabetes patients, among other things. And like several other drugmakers, it's working with Proteus Digital Health on sensors that track medication doses, to help keep patients on their meds.

"We've done more than most but certainly not enough," Jimenez told the news service, adding, "It may be niche today but in the future I think it is going to be front and center as to how diseases are managed."

Jimenez isn't alone. His Big Pharma colleagues at Sanofi ($SNY) have been eyeing digital partnerships for the very same reasons. And pharma watchers have long been touting "beyond-the-pill" approaches to product development and marketing. Beeping pill bottles, inhalers that track doses, drug pumps that communicate with doctors--and yes, apps that can monitor patients and their drugs--all are aimed at making pharma companies more about outcomes and less about marketing pills and injections alone.

It's part of a payer crunch, with insurers increasingly reluctant to cover expensive treatments unless they know those products will a., work for patients in the real world, and b., save money on complications down the road. And it's a response to demand from patients, who are turning to health-and-fitness apps for self-monitoring, and consulting the internet more often than they visit their doctors.

- read the Reuters interview

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