It's being reported today that GlaxoSmithKline has started a rheumatoid arthritis study using Apple's ResearchKit, marking the first time a drugmaker has used the health system for the iPhone to conduct clinical research.
Glaxo wants to record the mobility of 300 participants over three months and will also ask the patients to input both physical and emotional symptoms, such as pain and mood. The app Glaxo created from ResearchKit comes with a guided wrist exercise that uses the phone's sensors to record motion, giving the drugmaker a standardized measurement across all users. The company will use the results to help design better clinical trials.
The success of the study could help determine the pharmaceutical industry's future appetite for using Apple's products to conduct research. Drugmakers have to balance the lower costs of using the app with their ability to gather accurate, reliable data. Risks include that test subjects will tire of entering information into the app, and, given the iPhone's $399 starting price, the sample may be skewed toward wealthier demographics.
By using ResearchKit, London-based Glaxo may be able to reduce research costs, which can stretch into the millions of dollars. Observational trials, such as this one, can take months or even years to recruit and enroll patients, said Rob DiCicco, head of Glaxo's clinical innovation and digital platforms group. "Certainly you've also taken out the site costs, and the costs of having nurses and physicians explaining the studies to them and recording information."
For Apple, ResearchKit is a building block of its efforts to bolster its credentials as a provider of health technology. The Cupertino, California-based company is increasingly promoting its Apple Watch as a health and fitness accessory -- in addition to a built-in pedometer, the device can measure heart rate -- and has been quietly hiring a team of engineers and scientists with a background in health care. Apple sold 13.9 million watches last year, according to IDC. That pales in comparison to the 231 million iPhones it shipped, so building relationships with the health-care industry may help foster sales.
By encouraging health-care providers and drugmakers to offer services through its products, Apple could continue to build customer loyalty to its iPhones, iPads and computers by maintaining their health and fitness data in the company's devices and make it difficult to move to competing systems from Alphabet Inc.'s Google and others. For more on this story, see the full bloomberg report here.
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