A periodic roundup of news of note in digital healthcare and pharma and digital pharma and healthcare
- Paging Dr. Watson: Amazon is reportedly prepping the launch of a software program that crawls EHRs and gives tips for better or more cost-effective treatment based on an algorithm designed to contextualize physicians’ abbreviations (a significant stumbling block for past efforts along these lines).
- Meanwhile, Google Health, now under the leadership of ex-Geisinger chief David Feinberg, is absorbing DeepMind, which is working on diagnostic applications of AI, among other things. DeepMind’s Streams app, designed to help flag indications of kidney failure, was trialed in the NHS.
- Alphabet is giving up on a marquee digital health “moonshot” effort, Verily’s partnership with Alcon to develop a blood glucose-sniffing contact lens, saying that while they made promising progress, they couldn’t get consistent readings in real world testing. Verily has two other contact lens projects in the works with Alcon – one for presbyopia and another designed to aid sight after cataract surgery – moving forward.
- What will Amazon automate away next? How about pharmaceutical sales reps? M3 Health is partnering with Amazon to offer a sample-ordering version of Amazon's Ping button and has signed up Novartis Oncology as a cornerstone client for the service.
- Pear Therapeutics won FDA approval for its reSET-O app, designed to aid opioid addiction patients in outpatient treatment. The prescription cognitive behavioral therapy app's approval comes amidst a push by FDA to get alternative opioid abuse treatments on the market.
- UnitedHealthcare is dangling free Apple Watch 3s to members who meet exercise goals – and they’re not the only insurer betting that the device and its close competitors can help them keep members healthier – or attract healthier members.
- A rogue scientist in China announced that he had edited the genes of twin girls using CRISPR, disabling a gene to make them more resistant to HIV infection (but lowering their resistance to the flu virus). If his claims prove true – and geneticists say it’s plausible – He Jiankui (with the apparent assistance of an American mentor) has broken an informal embargo within the global scientific and medical community and ushered in an age in which, as The Atlantic puts it, “Small groups of researchers can make virtually unilateral decisions about experiments that have potentially global consequences, and that everyone else only learns about after the fact.”
- Incidentally, here’s a fascinating look into the reliability of those consumer DNA tests that claim to reveal where your ancestors lived. It’s a data detective story with a twist or two.
- After rolling back price hikes under presidential criticism over the summer, Pfizer announced plans to raise list prices on dozens of drugs, just as it has the past several years. Election’s over, people! Back to business as usual – for a few months, anyway!
- Move over, pharma. Hospitals are increasingly advertising directly to consumers in the U.S.
- Good profile of Akili Interactive, the bicoastal video-games-as-therapeutics developer which is about to bring its first game to market (pending FDA approval), an ADHD treatment with the pharmaesque trial name AKL-T01.
- Some 16 generics makers are embroiled in a massive antitrust lawsuit involving alleged price-fixing on over 300 drugs. The lawsuit, which has been joined by 47 states, alleges that virtually every major generics manufacturer (Sun, Teva, Mylan, Dr. Reddy’s, etc.) coordinated price hikes at trade conferences, regular dinners and “Girls Night Out” cocktail meetings. Read the story for some interesting nitty-gritty on how competition impacts generic prices.
- Read Atul Gawande’s epic (rimshot) screed-slash-meditation on EHRs, enraged HCPs, software “brittleness,” signal fatigue, “Medical Taylorism,” the Tar Pit effect and the need for an App Store for EMRs. A sample: “Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers.”
Also: “Many fear that the advance of technology will replace us all with robots. Yet in fields like health care the more imminent prospect is that it will make us all behave like robots. And the people we serve need something more than either robots or robot-like people can provide. They need human enterprises that can adapt to change.”