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In breaking news for direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing services, the FDA has given the green light to 23andMe to once again tell consumers if they have an increased risk of developing ten different diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In a statement, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the FDA’s director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said that “Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information. But it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle—it does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.”
Two of the hallmarks of digital health are personalization (especially efficient scalability at the customer interface) and improved integration with the healthcare system. Increased quality, access to care, and improved patient outcomes are the sought after goals. I spoke with two startups this past week that epitomize these aspects of digital health and, among other benefits, offer an alternative to addictive opioid painkillers for chronic pain management.
The first startup I spoke to is Resolve Digital Health, which just announced a $5M round of funding, and is working to change the way cannabis is prescribed by physicians and experienced by patients. Their novel solution offers standardized dosing through pre-packaged, single-use ‘Smartpods’ filled with marijuana/cannabis buds or oil and used by patients in the company’s vaporizer device. The patient experience is also tracked via a mobile app and data is shared with doctors, pharmacists, and other caregivers.
The other company I spoke with is NeuraLace Medical, which just announced a $2M round of financing. Located here in San Diego, the company’s non-invasive solution utilizes pulsed magnetic fields to stimulate target nerves, thereby reactivating and restoring the damaged nerve’s ability to manage pain. The in-patient procedure is optimized in real time via algorithms that monitor the communication between nerve cells, predict what the healthy code should be, and then fire off in that pattern, thereby overwriting the signals for pain and restoring a balance which results in pain relief.
On a related note, Purdue Pharma—which has been criticized for its aggressive marketing of the pain reliever OxyContin and its role in the U.S. opioid addiction and overdose epidemic—is sponsoring a study at Geisinger Health System in which patients use an iPhone and Apple Watch to log their symptoms. OxyContin is the bestselling painkiller in the U.S., and Purdue has reaped $31B in revenue as a result. And with over $14B in personal wealth, the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, made the 2015 Forbes list of America’s richest families.
The critical need for these digital health solutions to succeed—particularly in the alleviation of chronic pain—is highlighted by a new study published by the CDC indicating that 1 in 5 patients prescribed a 10-day supply of opioids become long-term users. For acute pain, the agency suggests only prescribing weak and short doses of opioids for three days. And for chronic pain, it suggests that doctors refrain from prescribing opioids, except for cancer patients and end-of-life care. From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
IN OTHER NEWS
Among the many new features announced for the new Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone, there will be a dedicated heart rate sensor on the back of the device. With an iPhone, you could use an app to get your pulse (most likely inferior), or get another device, like an Apple Watch.
Adidas (which owns Runtastic) has filed suit against Asics (owner of Runkeeper) over patent rights related to fitness tracking software. Adidas is demanding that Asics “cease and desist providing RunKeeper and also wants undisclosed damages.” Adidas claims that it was the first in the industry to comprehensively bring data analytics to athletes. The lawsuit could have implications for the entire field of wearable tech fitness trackers. Under Armour (owner of MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and UA Record) previously settled similar litigation with Adidas.
Researchers from the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) have published a study demonstrating that facial recognition software can diagnose a rare genetic disease called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, aka DiGeorge syndrome. Geneticist Dr. Paul Kruszka states that “Even experienced clinicians have difficulty diagnosing genetic syndromes in non-European populations.”
Talkspace’s “Reshaping Behavioral Health in the Workplace” – April 25 in San Francisco, CA
The most forward-thinking benefits conference of the year is here. Join Talkspace for a lively full-day conference on how mental health issues are impacting employees. You’ll hear from top HR experts and behavioral health thought leaders to learn how companies are using technology to support the mental health of their employees. Digital Health group members save 30% off tickets by using registration code “DIGITALHEALTH-30” here.
Dell EMC Healthcare Think Tank 2017 – Apr 18 in Phoenix, AZ
Collaboration, open dialogue, listening and learning. Join us for the sixth annual Healthcare Think Tank – #TransformHIT – hosted by Dell EMC Healthcare and Life Sciences. You’ll hear from leading healthcare social media influencers from providers, consultants, researchers, press, and more as they exchange views on the digital transformation of health IT. Led by moderator, John Lynn, our panel will discuss three hot topics in the healthcare industry today: Consumerism in Healthcare, Precision Medicine, and Big Data and AI in Healthcare.
Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier
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