Will digital therapeutics replace drugs?
Can an app replace traditional drugs? This is the question asked, often in a sceptical way because it seems too futuristic.
The brief answer is: not generally speaking but they may…
- replace drugs in specific situations, with selected patients’ settings
- reduce treatments duration or dosages
- act as preventing medicine
1. Replacing drugs with digital therapies
Digital therapeutics companies are already answering this question in the best way: getting their digital treatments approved.
These digital therapies must indeed be recognized by the scientific community (through clinical trials, peer-reviewed papers) and approved by regulatory bodies.
Few examples are already here, like Sleepio, a digital solution developed to treat insomnia (now offered also by UK NHS to some of its citizens).
Or a promising digital therapy candidate is Akili’s “Project: EVO”, a sort of video-game to treat children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD).
2. Reducing treatments duration or dosages
But digital therapeutics (DTx) aim is not limited to trying replace drugs. There are already some solutions developed to complement/enhance traditional treatments by helping patients manage their conditions.
And also in these cases DTx could in a certain sense replace drugs, hopefully reducing traditional treatment duration or dosages needed, thanks to a synergistic approach.
Imagine, as an example, a solution to help patients to better manage a chronic condition like diabetes (improving lifestyle, diet and adherence to therapy). And consider if, thanks to this digital aid, patients could be able to avoid or at least delay the need to intensify therapy (e.g. continuing an oral + digital therapy instead of having to add insulin injections).
3. Act as preventing medicine
Or they may help preventing diseases, enabling a shift from reactive to preventive medicine. In a sense, also in this way DTx would ‘replace’ drugs, playing in advance and eliminating the need for some people.
There is a growing attention to personalized and preventive medicine. This shift is also necessary to alleviate the economic burden of healthcare, especially considering the increasing care demands of an ageing population. Digital therapeutics may come in our aid towards this great goal.
For example, Omada Health is working in that direction with its personalized digital behaviour change program. Omada’s online program prevents (or manages) chronic conditions like prediabetes (up to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years), type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.