In the media

Reimagining autoinjector connectivity

On Drug Delivery

10 June 2023

The rise in treating chronic diseases with biologics over the past 20 years has been significant. This has led to an increase in demand for self-administration of subcutaneous therapies – and a corresponding growth in the development and use of autoinjectors. In recent years, digital connectivity for autoinjectors and other self-administration devices has been seen as the future for improving patient engagement and outcomes.

However, despite this move towards connecting autoinjectors, many organisations fail to create a business case for such devices due to current constraints and risks. This leads to patients missing out on the benefits of a connected drug delivery environment, healthcare professionals missing out on insights into how patients are coping, and a missed learning opportunity for pharmaceutical and medical device companies and the wider science community.

There is a real opportunity for more sustainable, cost-effective, data-rich and device-agnostic connected solutions that support and liberate the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors from current limitations but also empower and improve quality of life for patients and their carers.

Current autoinjectors and connecting them 

Autoinjectors were primarily devised as devices that help a patient self-administer a prefilled syringe safely and easily. To address ease of use, manufacturing, and industry models, the predominant autoinjector is a disposable, single-use, mechanical, two-step autoinjector. These autoinjectors provide relatively simple feedback to the patient in the form of visual signalling, mainly through the window to view the plunger moving, in addition to mechanical audible clicks to signal injection progress.

The majority of autoinjectors are composed of plastic and metal. In more recent years, connectivity has been achieved by adding on hardware-specific plastic and electronic components that capture data. The purpose of digital connectivity of autoinjectors is to help the patient use the device, record they have taken the medication, remind them to take it, store a history of medication use and share information. These factors are aimed at ensuring the medication is taken properly and in line with the treatment and dosing regime in a non-clinical setting, primarily in the home environment.

Simplifying connectivity, the supply chain and the patient experience

An alternative solution that addresses existing market challenges comes from a completely different way of connecting disposable mechanical devices. Developed by PA Consulting, ARinject™ is a smartphone-based connectivity solution for autoinjectors that requires no additional hardware and works with any type of autoinjector and smartphone. Where current connected autoinjector solutions are expensive, device specific, introduce more plastic to the environment and only provide limited data, ARinject aims to achieve the exact opposite

A patient-centric approach to home-based healthcare

ARinject uses sophisticated image processing, augmented reality techniques and machine learning to offer simple, real-time dosage guidance for patients and their carers. ARinject recognises the autoinjector type, label, cap on/off, autoinjector positioning on injection sites and dosing progression, and incorporates usage notifications and reminders. It also allows for front and rear camera use, eliminating the need to hold the phone, to enable two-handed injector use, if necessary.

ARinject not only captures injection and dosing information to increase patient confidence that they have taken the dose at the right time and day, and records this for future reference, but it also helps guide them through the injection process in real time. This feature could provide both comfort and support to patients unsure of how to inject, in addition to carers gaining confidence – and provide support for more difficult dosing regimens, including during the early stage of a patient’s treatment or in clinical trials.

Multiple use cases accelerate opportunity 

ARinject is currently at proof-of-concept stage, with early user studies showing that people can successfully perform a demonstration injection using ARinject. As ARinject is a platform for development, any company with an autoinjector could connect to it and, because no modifications to the autoinjector are required, this approach could be developed for any autoinjectors – whether they are on the market in commercial use or in development. Use cases range, therefore, from clinical trials – to help guidance and training for autoinjector use – to on-market products where more training could help certain patient groups and adherence tracking, particularly with small patient groups needing greater support. The versatility, lower cost and time, and low environmental impact of ARinject aims to revolutionise the way autoinjectors are connected, and the way training and guidance is offered to autoinjector users. 

By reimagining this market, PA Consulting aims to help open it up and make it faster, cheaper and available to the many rather than the few, so that the question of return on investment and business case are not as prohibitive. Everyone can then start to benefit from the data that comes from these approaches, and patients will have greater engagement opportunities and improved outcomes.

This article was first published in On Drug Delivery

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