To promote allergy medication, Sanofi uses wearables in "social experiment"

By Jonah Comstock
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Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, a division of the global pharmaceutical company, used wearable devices in a "social experiment" that forms part of the marketing efforts for Xyzal, its 24-hour allergy medication that recently became available over the counter. The company used wearables to track the sleep and activity of allergy sufferers in a small non-scientific test in order to demonstrate ways in which allergies can be disruptive to people's lives.
 
"Overall, it was truly a 'social experiment,'" Heather Guzzi, senior manageer of North America Communications at Sanofi told MobiHealthNews in an email. "It was not designed or powered in the same manner as a clinical study. That said, it was a first-of-its kind experiment in the allergy space and we believe its results provide valuable insight into the real-life impact of allergy symptoms on quality of life."

The experiment saw 160 participants, 80 with allergies and 80 without, using wearable devices for 30 consecutive days to track sleep and activity. Participants also completed a daily survey about their allergy symptoms, sleep patterns and activities to add context to the data from devices.

What Sanofi learned was that allergy sufferers sleep worse and move less than those without allergies: Their sleep was disrupted nearly four times as much as the control group and they moved an average of 3.16 miles in a day, compared to 3.35 miles a day for those without allergies. Allergy sufferers listed their symptoms as the top factor negatively impacting their sleep. 

Sanofi is working with Dr. Neeta Ogden, an allergist who often represents the field on TV news and in magazines, to promote Xyzal. Ogden said the reason it makes sense to study the impact of allergies on daily life is that those with allergies don't always realize how much their symptoms cost them.

"Many allergy sufferers have gotten so used to their symptoms that they don’t even realize how significantly they may be impacting their day-to-day lives, including everything from their sleep at night to their productivity during the day. But the results of this social experiment should serve as a wake-up call,” Ogden said in a statement. “If your allergy symptoms aren’t under control, it’s time to educate yourself about both your triggers and your treatment options, so you can find relief that doesn’t rest and enjoy the spring season.”

Pharma companies are looking to wearables for many purposes, including postmarket surveillance, clinical trials, and co-prescribed digital therapeutics. But Sanofi points to another area where wearables could add value: in pharma marketing, even for over the counter drugs. In this case, the company has tapped into the capacity of wearables to measure every day life to make a point to customers about how their every day lives might be affected by allergies.