(Bloomberg) — Pharmaceutical companies are enlisting Fitbits and other gadgets strapped to patients’ wrists, chests and skin as a way to bring drugs to market faster.
What began as an aid for athletes and dieters to track their movements is quickly becoming a critical tool for medical researchers and drugmakers. By outfitting trial participants with wearables, companies are beginning to amass precise information and gather round-the-clock data in hopes of streamlining trials and better understanding whether a drug is working. Down the line, wearables also could help pharmaceutical makers prove to insurance companies that their treatments are effective, thus reducing health costs.
“The use of wearables has the potential to be a revolution,” said Kara Dennis, managing director of mobile health at Medidata Solutions Inc., which consults with companies on ways to improve clinical trials.
Drug researchers find this tracking technology is more accurate than human memory gleaned from subjective questionnaires that ask patients to rate their ability to walk on a scale of, say, zero to four. So far, there are at least 299 such clinical trials using wearables, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) records.
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