Otsuka is responsible for some of the major mental health medications on the market: Abilify and Rexulti. But really, they are involved in a lot more than that. Otsuka focuses on improving the health and wellness of as many people as possible, with a strong focus on mental health. They are also focused on the digital space, using standalone and complementary digital therapies. We spoke with Jeffrey Weness, the Head of Digital Opportunities and Business Intelligence of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Companies, U.S. Operations, on the importance of investment in digital tech for mental health and wellbeing.
There are a couple of approaches that they use to help tackle the digital world. One way is by looking at the market and trying to understand where there is opportunity for growth. As we know, COVID-19 has posed many challenges over the last two years. This gave them a chance to research how to connect people better with the care they need. Otsuka looked into how to invest in and improve the therapeutic alliance. They wanted to see how telehealth and telemedicine could be used in that relationship. They have also looked into access and how telehealth can help reduce the number of barriers to access that many patients have. Many have experienced having a family member in need. During the weeks and months it takes to get in to see a doctor, that family member is suffering.
They are very excited to provide digital offerings to care with a therapeutic benefit. It could be care that is ongoing, prescribed, or quick and easy for immediate care. They are looking to focus on disadvantaged populations, where they can truly make a difference for the most amount of people.
They are interested in partnering with different organizations that can help develop tech to meet the needs of those in need. They are looking for partnerships with good people with good ideas and who want to make a change.
Digital biomarkers solutions are being used to give real-time updates on the progression of care. These help tie together what is actually going on in a person’s life and how it is affecting them with the care they are currently receiving. They are working with different companies to bring digital biomarkers into play, with the idea that a well-rounded and concise look at a patient is the best possible way to help them. There are many products and companies that can do this, but it is about finding the right company for the right reason.
There is no future in healthcare without the integration of digital tactics being a component. Digital tech is being integrated into all healthcare and will continue this progression. There is a desire to use more digital therapeutics in care and treatment. The goal is not to completely replace the pharmaceutical therapies that are on the market but to be used as complementary strategies. There are things that can be done with modern therapies early on in mental health care that can keep people from progressing to serious diseases and serious illnesses.
Otsuka’s hope with digital therapeutics is to be able to work across a spectrum, ranging from non-prescription care to easy-to-access and easy-to-download care and strategies that can help them manage the challenges of daily life more effectively. This would continue through the spectrum to prescription medications that would be used to treat serious mental illness or serious illness under the supervision of a doctor but would also have a strong therapeutic impact without access barriers.
There are two different aspects of digital therapeutics. There are directional issues that can impact the success of patient progress. These directions are seen as the digital prescription and the digital non-prescription method. The idea behind this is that if prescribed a medication, you are familiar with how the process of obtaining and taking a prescription works. If you are prescribed a digital tool, there is a foreign aspect associated with using apps and how they can work for you. Digital non-prescription methods are used more for overall wellness and mental health wellbeing. These non-prescription methods tend to have a higher rate of adoption in the community vs. the lower adoption rate of the prescribed manners. The better the rate of digital adoption in the community, the better the overall success of treatment for patients.
Digital tech has made a huge impact on our society. The key is looking at how to use digital tools to connect to the public. By incorporating digital tech, digital biometrics, and digital therapeutics into our community, we can conquer these barriers to mental health and take a stand for our mental health.