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Intelligent drug delivery platforms will improve patient adherence and help to move healthcare from hospital to home

Recent years have seen significant increases in the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and autoimmune conditions, and the very high cost of the drugs (>€10k/yr) and treatment regimens associated with these conditions has intensified the pressure to shift medication administration from traditional settings to cost-effective alternatives. 
One alternative location is the patient’s home, where treatments are now regularly self-injected. Diabetics may require multiple doses of insulin daily, while high-value biologics for autoimmune conditions may be administered as infrequently as once every 2-3 months. 
However, homecare settings lead to poor patient adherence (i.e. the failure to take medication as prescribed). To address these issues, the development of smart drug delivery platforms and intelligent autoinjectors is required.

Societal impact

The greatest societal impact of smart drug delivery platforms will be seen in improved public health arising from increased patient adherence. Poor adherence is linked to demographic factors, incorrect patient beliefs about costs and benefits, and perceived patient burden regarding obtaining and using medication. It is estimated that up to 50% of patients fail to medicate as planned, and for chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, this can cause deterioration of the joints from physical wear of the bones, leading to further hospitalization, patient distress and financial burden.

Ultimately, non-adherence contributes to the premature deaths of nearly 200,000 Europeans annually. Conversely, the potential societal impact of improved adherence is huge – in one study, patients who showed improved adherence had a 13% reduction in the risk of hospitalization or emergency room visits – and emerging drug delivery technologies will further accelerate this trend.


Relevance for the Electronic Components and Systems (ECS) industry

Use of technology, connectivity and loyalty-style programs improves adherence rates and facilitates remote treatment outside of the hospital, and so a clear need exists for the development of next-generation drug delivery systems. These will form part of the “Internet of Medical Things” (IoMT) - medical devices and applications that link with healthcare systems using wireless connectivity. Already, 3.7 million connected medical devices are used worldwide today. 

However, the More-than-Moore technologies needed to realize the next generation of sensorised and wearable delivery devices still need to be developed, and there are significant opportunities for European ECS in this regard, especially as the industry is already strong in the MedTech sector. Particular emphasis should be placed on the development of new medical-grade microsystems technologies, including transdermal interface components, closed-loop diagnostics, artificial intelligence and low-power communications.

Enabling technology platforms

Enabling platforms are required in order to facilitate a transition from the legacy mechanical components seen in current autoinjectors and wearable drug delivery pumps, to highly integrated, patch-like microsystems. These include:

  • High-performance sensors and actuators for drug delivery, monitoring and control;

  • On-board microfluidics for in-situ preparation and delivery of formulations;

  • Minimally invasive needles and electrodes for transdermal interfacing, delivery and diagnostics;

  • New materials, containers and power sources that will meet stringent environmental and clinical waste disposal standards;

  • Body-worn communications technologies for IoMT integration and clinical interfacing;

  • Edge AI for closed-loop control, adherence assessment, and clinical trial monitoring.

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