Drug companies have struggled to bring innovative new molecules to market, and that drought does not seem likely to end soon. Many of the new products in recent years are combination products or drug/device combinations such as injection pens, auto-injectors and insulin pumps. Turns out the usability of such products has a major impact on patient adherence. Not only that, a new survey from Cambridge Consultants suggests patients are willing to pay a premium for more usable devices and that lifestyle concerns such as discretion and portability are important factors.
The drug and device industries are starting to realize that this is an important are of opportunity. To be fair, this is not an entirely new phenomenon. For example, Johnson & Johnson was very successful in establishing market leadership in the self-blood glucose monitoring arena by producing consumer friendly products. They were curvy and attractive looking compared to rivals such as Bayer and Boehringer Mannheim (now Roche Diagnostics), which tended to be more medical.
The opportunity is greater now, too because of Apple, which has differentiated itself on usability and achieved massive market share as a result. Remember, the iPod wasn’t the first mp3 player, iPhone was not among the first smartphones, and iPad wasn’t the first tablet. Yet Apple has been able to establish high market share and price premiums with its approach to design and marketing. It’s also gotten people used to expecting something easy to use and powerful, and not put up with the old, complex, clunky stuff. From personal experience, I’ve lost my tolerance for fiddling with complicated, unintuitive electronics like car radios. I think this feeling is starting to translate more directly to medical devices. It will be interesting to see how quickly the evolution proceeds.June 1, 2011