FDA and the Digital Divide: The Battle of Proof & Predicate vs. Errors & Upgrades

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 03/13/2018
There is a yawning divide between regulatory science and digital development. Digiratti view regulators as stodgy while regulators view digital developers as trigger-happy. There is an unproductive cognitive disconnect.

When we consider the integration of new and exciting digital technologies (ingestible, implantable, portable, app-based, diagnostic, etc.), it's likely that technologists are far more likely to be excited about the possibilities rather than considerate of the risks. The same cannot necessarily be said of regulators/reviewers who reside within a culture of proof and predicate. Technologists inhabit a planet of errors and upgrades. There is no "Beta" approval pathway for the FDA.

For the FDA, risk exists to be minimized while for digital developers risk is an opportunity. Fortunately, there is common ground – and it isn't the technology. It's the public health need for which the technology presents a safe and effective (within the FDA definition of that duality) solution. Interestingly, it's the drug developer who must now play the role of “learned intermediary” between regulator and technologist -- a new and uncomfortable role. But the pay-off is worth the effort for sponsor, regulator and public health advocate -- better patient outcomes through more evolved 21st century technology integration.

Consider Adherence/Compliance, a public health problem of brobdingnagian proportion nowhere more acutely felt than in patients with schizophrenia. That's why products that address new and innovative solutions (such as Abilify MyCite, a pill with a sensor that digitally tracks if patients with schizophrenia  have ingested their medication) are so exciting to developer, regulator and patient alike. It's a real world example that should provide momentum for continued development beyond this one therapeutic area.

As real world data becomes available, the FDA will hopefully feel increasingly comfortable expediting similar programs (specifically) and programs with more innovative uses of digital technologies (more broadly).

Positive signals from the FDA will send potent messages to developers that further investment in such clinical programs is worth the investment risk. And positive signals emanating from “the patient voice” will be crucial.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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