When people with serious or chronic illnesses don’t integrate medication into their routine, the consequences can be harmful, even devastating. If they don’t take their medication on a rigorous schedule, they may reduce the chances of successful treatment and, in some cases, increase drug resistance and allow the disease to gain strength.
Jean-Manasse Théagène is President of 360Medlink, a Montreal-based company that provides software, mobile applications and interactive multimedia solutions for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. He says the problem of non-adherence to treatment is enormous. “This is a problem that concerns a growing number of global healthcare stakeholders. In fact, non-adherence has become a crisis because it not only affects patients’ health, but also puts additional pressure on healthcare systems, caregivers and employers who support ill people during their treatment.”
Academic research and ICT to the rescue
Aware of the problem of non-adherence, José Côté and Yola Moride—professors and researchers at the Université de Montréal Hospital Research Centre (CHUM Research Centre)—worked for several years to develop information and communications technology (ICT) solutions. In collaboration with researchers from the Université de Montréal, Laval Université and Polytechnique Montréal, Côté and her team created VIH-TAVIE™, a Web application that helps people with HIV better integrate antiretroviral treatment into their daily lives. “We found that health care professionals have few tools on the Web, which are complementary to their practice, to help patients better adhere to their treatment. We had to create solutions to help patients understand their disease and prescribed medications better. VIH-TAVIE™ reaches out to people in their homes, through the Web, to give them the tools to best manage their own treatment,” explains Côté.
Preliminary data have been collected in a clinical setting from 90 people who are living with HIV, undergoing antiretroviral therapy and using VIH-TAVIE™. The numbers speak for themselves. Over 93% said that the skills and strategies offered by the VIH-TAVIE™ virtual nurse met their needs, and 91% said the information provided in the application would help them manage their treatment. They all liked VIH-TAVIE™, found it easy to use and said they would recommend it to others. The VIH-TAVIE™ Web-based tool received the International Sanofi Prize in 2012 in the Helping Hand category.
(Video in French only)
In parallel, Yola Moride and her multidisciplinary team of researchers designed Persistance. This communication platform includes, among other features, telephone follow-up, which encourages people with depression or generalized anxiety disorder to take their medication properly. “Our previous studies showed that over 50% of Quebec prescription drug insurance plan members stop their treatment before the end of the recommended period, which increases the risk of relapse. Besides the devastating effects of these diseases on patients and their families, it is estimated that premature discontinuation of antidepressant treatment poses significant health care costs. Persistance is a support program that aims to improve adherence to treatment for patients with depression, thereby improving symptoms, quality of life and productivity at work,” explains Moride.
After Univalor told 360Medlink about these technologies, the company obtained a licence option to commercialize VIH-TAVIE™ and Persistance. For Camille Blanckaert, Junior Engineer and Project Manager at Univalor, this agreement is the result of ongoing communication between Univalor and potential industry partners. “We have maintained regular communication with 360Medlink to inform them about technological innovations resulting from the work of researchers in our institutions. In our portfolio, we had José Côté and Yola Moride’s platforms, which had been the subject of invention disclosures and which we were following closely. When they were sufficiently mature, we informed 360Medlink, which was interested in obtaining a licence option to assess the market potential,” Blanckaert says.
(360Medlink Team: Marc Lapointe, Director of Business Development - Jean Manasse Théagène, President and Alberto Navas Roch, Chief Technology Officer )
Jean-Manasse Théagène of 360Medlink believes the market for platforms such as VIH-TAVIE™ and Persistance is huge. “The medical and pharmaceutical organizations we work with are likely to seek ways to encourage people with severe or chronic illnesses to stick with their treatment. Initiatives and products are developed here and there, but few are validated by clinical studies. With VIH-TAVIE™ and Persistance, we are ahead, because these programs have undergone clinical trials with promising results.”
360Medlink believes the VIH-TAVIE™ and Persistance platforms could also find takers among governments looking to reduce pressure on the health care system, and among large employers that face significant economic and productivity losses when their employees are absent from work for a long time.
From the laboratory to the patient
Researchers, Univalor and 360Medlink will collaborate to finish developing the VIH-TAVIE™ and Persistance platforms, and to make them available to patients quickly. 360Medlink is becoming familiar with the platforms and forming a committee of scientific and industrial partners to prepare for commercialization. “There are still many steps to take, but thanks to the collaboration we have built with Univalor and CHUM researchers, we believe we can establish a viable market access strategy and rapidly help people living with HIV and depression benefit from these innovations,” says Théagène. “We are also evaluating the possibility of adapting the platforms to monitor treatments for other serious or chronic conditions, such as diabetes, chronic pain and cancer.”