America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval to some digital therapeutics, or digiceuticals, which complement or even substitute conventional drugs for treating many conditions, ranging from diabetes and asthma to substance abuse, anxiety, depression, insomnia and attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome. Venture capital funds are readying war chests for a new breed of startups, many of them clustered around Boston, where many bio-medical industries already thrive. It is time Indian digital entrepreneurs woke up to the huge potential of digital therapeutics to create a new market segment in healthcare that could swiftly grow to many billion dollars in size.
Of course, there are several wellness tracking applications already in vogue. Some of them coach, monitor, measure and record. Digiceuticals differ from them in that they are focused on particular conditions, go through clinical trials and even seek and obtain regulatory approval. On combating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or insomnia, the digital solution might indeed be superior to conventional medication. To fight substance dependence, digiceuticals might complement medicines. A diabetes management phone app called HotStar, which has received FDA approval, has changed a patient’s life, reports The Economist. Others track the progress of a drug. Drug companies are forming alliances with digital startups, to develop new combination therapies. India’s regulatory apparatus must gear itself up to test and certify digital therapeutics. Insurance companies must determine how and when they will pay for these new treatments.
For the tech industry, digiceuticals are but one segment of a fast expanding field in digital healthcare, ranging from tracking, storing and analysing data to helping doctors and hospitals manage patients. The tech giants, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, have already started their healthcare projects. Indian medical entrepreneurs and the tech industry should see digital health as a priority area of innovation and job creation.