GSK ventures into connected inhaler space with Propeller Health deal

By Jonah Comstock
06:14 am
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GSK's Ellipta inhaler GSK's Ellipta inhaler

GlaxoSmithKline and Madison, Wisconsin-based Propeller Health announced a partnership today in which Propeller will develop and manufacture a custom sensor for GSK's Ellipta inhaler for COPD patients.

Like the other inhaler sensors Propeller has developed, the device will record when and where the patient uses the inhaler and wirelessly transmit that information to GSK researchers, who will use it to draw inference about patient adherence patterns and use those learnings when creating new drugs and developing treatment protocols.

"We continue to find new and better ways to conduct clinical trials by exploring novel patient centered outcomes through strategic collaborations," Dave Allen, senior vice president of respiratory R&D at GSK said in a statement, "Using innovative sensor technology to improve the quality of adherence data collected during our studies will advance our understanding of disease and inform our decision-making in the development of new medicines."

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This is GSK's first official foray into the smart inhaler space, which has seen big investments from other pharmaceutical companies in recent months, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, and AstraZeneca. Propeller Health formerly developed a sensor for GSK's Diskus inhaler and even secured FDA clearance for the device, but Propeller did so without GSK's buy-in. In fact, the companies specifically stated in a release that the Diskus inhaler won't be part of the current collaboration.

Meanwhile, GSK isn't Propeller's first pharma partner: Propeller struck a similar deal with Boehringer Ingelheim back in 2013. At the time, Larry Brooks, the director of the New Business Model and Healthcare Innovation group at BI, told a Health 2.0 audience that he saw Propeller's willingness to work with multiple pharma partners as a positive.

“I always look at it from a customer perspective, and if I go to a health plan and I tell them that I have a solution for our inhaler, but you can’t get it for any other inhaler and you have to work with a different company for that, it’s not going to take off,” he said. “So I would love it if [Propeller] struck a deal with three or four of the other leading pharma companies in respiratory and we came to these payers with a whole package solution that included both brand and generic medication and any form factor the medication was delivered in.”

MobiHealthNews rounded up the various companies working in the smart inhaler space last month. They include Teva Pharmaceuticals, which recently bought Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Gecko Health Innovations and AstraZeneca, which is working with New Zealand-based Adherium.

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