Novartis, Qualcomm Life to develop connected inhaler for COPD

By Aditi Pai

Novartis has announced a partnership with Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, to develop a connected version of its inhaler, Breezhaler, for people who have COPD.

Specifically, Qualcomm Life will develop the reference design for the module that will connect the Breezhaler to the Qualcomm Life 2net platform, a hub for connecting home health devices. This platform will collect data on inhaler usage, including the duration of the patient's inhalation, which Novartis said indicates quality of the inhalation.

"This is an exciting time for health care as we see the proliferation of the Internet of Medical Things," Qualcomm Life Senior Vice President Rick Valencia said in a statement. "Through our expanded collaboration with Novartis, we are able to deliver a frictionless digital health experience to their COPD patients.”

Novartis expects the Breezhaler to launch in 2019 after it undergoes manufacturing, testing, and regulatory approvals.
Novartis and Qualcomm announced a couple of other partnerships with each other last year. 

In January 2015, Qualcomm Life announced it partnered with Novartis for Novartis’ global Trials of the Future program, in which the pharma company is endeavoring to use more mobile technology in its clinical trials and to provide connectivity for future Novartis products. Novartis will use Qualcomm Life's 2net platform and various connected devices to collect medical data directly from trial participants in their homes.

A week later, Qualcomm and Novartis announced it was partnering to start an investment firm. Qualcomm Ventures and Novartis will leverage up to $100 million to invest in "technologies, products or services that 'go beyond the pill' to benefit physicians and patients”.

There are a number of other digital health companies partnering with pharmaceutical companies to develop connected inhalers. Some of these include Propeller Health, which is working with Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline; Gecko Health, now owned by Teva Pharmaceuticals; Adherium, working with AstraZeneca; Inspiro Medical, now owned by Opko Health; and Cohero Health, which is working with various provider groups.