Hollywog unveils smartphone-controlled pain device

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As revealed by our recently published MAT Q2 2017 info, global sales of topical analgesics (+8.2%) fast outpaced systemic analgesics (+3.8%), owing to higher levels of product innovation. This trend was particularly noticeable in North America, where sales of topical analgesics were up 16.2% in the year to end-June 2017.

One specific area of dynamism has been topical pain relief devices, specifically TENS machines, with a variety of smaller marketers and established OTC players launching such products in recent years. For example, Bayer launched TENS device Aleve Direct Therapy in summer 2016.

The innovation stakes have now been raised higher with the launch of a smartphone-controlled TENS device by US marketer Hollywog. The WiTouch Pro Bluetooth TENS Therapy device is paired with the WiTouch Pro App to provide stimulation pain therapy to the lower back.

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According to Chuck Thomas, CEO of Hollywog: “This launch signals an important innovation for Hollywog, where our new patented pain management solution, the WiTouch Pro, offers a drug-free digitally-enabled alternative to block pain and keep moving. People are looking for a discrete solution that is personalised for their pain and with this launch we deliver on that need.”

This trend is likely to accelerate, with marketers like Purdue Pharma already looking at how to deliver pain therapy via smartwatches too.

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Futuristic “smart bandages” can repair your body

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Bandage technology has gradually been revolutionised in the 100 years since Band-Aids were first introduced. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT are now ready to introduce the next century of wound care with the “smart bandage”.

The smart bandage has individual fibres that store medications which can be later implemented using a smartphone or another mobile device. The bandage is made up of electrically conductive fibres that are coated in a gel that can house medications. Antibiotics and painkillers can be used within the bandage, and possibly many other effective combinations that will enhance recovery.

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Individual fibres can then be activated via voltage from a connected micro-controller no larger than a post stamp using a connected mobile device. Ali Tamayol, Assistant Professor of Mechanical & Materials Engineering at Nebraska, explained: “This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release, you can release multiple drugs with different release profiles.”

This is an exciting platform that can potentially be applied to many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine. Not only could it be useful for dealing with battlefield injuries, it could also help in the treatment of chronic wounds, which are common in patients living with diabetes.

This is not the only “next gen” bandage in development. A team from Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science has created bandages laden with nano-scale sensors that can instantaneously transmit health information to medical professionals using 5G wireless data.

Ibuprofen associated with blood pressure rise in arthritis patients at CVD risk

According to the European Society of Cardiology, ibuprofen is associated with increased blood pressure and hypertension compared to celecoxib in patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), both non-selective and selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors, are among the most widely prescribed drugs worldwide, but are now linked with increased blood pressure and adverse cardiovascular events.

NSAID labels include warnings about potential increases in blood pressure but there is little data on the effects of individual drugs. Maintaining or achieving blood pressure control in patients with arthritis and concomitant hypertension could avoid more than 70,000 deaths from stroke and 60,000 deaths from coronary heart disease each year.

The study which found the results, PRECISION-ABPM, was a prospective, double blind, randomised, non-inferiority cardiovascular safety trial. It was conducted at 60 sites in the US and included 444 patients, of whom 408 (92%) had osteoarthritis and 36 (8%) had rheumatoid arthritis. All patients had evidence of, or were at increased risk for, coronary artery disease.

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Patients were randomised in a 1:1:1 fashion to receive celecoxib (100–200mg twice a day), ibuprofen (600–800mg three times a day), or naproxen (375–500mg twice a day) with matching placebos.

Principal investigator Prof Frank Ruschitzka, professor of cardiology and co-head, Department of Cardiology, University Heart Centre, Zurich, Switzerland, said: “PRECISION-ABPM showed differential blood pressure effects between the different NSAIDs, ibuprofen and naproxen, and the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib. While celecoxib and naproxen produced either a slight decrease (celecoxib) or a relatively small increase (naproxen) in blood pressure, ibuprofen was associated with a significant increase in ambulatory systolic blood pressure of more than 3mmHg.”

“Patients receiving ibuprofen had a 61% higher incidence of de novo hypertension compared to those receiving celecoxib,” Prof Ruschitzka continued.

These results support and extend the findings of the PRECISION trial, demonstrating non-inferiority for the primary cardiovascular outcomes for moderate doses of celecoxib compared with naproxen or ibuprofen.

Smartphone app may help older adults manage serious mental illness and chronic health conditions

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The use of new technologies in geriatric psychiatry shows promise for advancing personalised medicine and improving patient care. A new study in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry describes the successful adaptation of an integrated medical and psychiatric self-management intervention to a smartphone application for middle-aged and older adults with serious mental illness.

Care of middle-aged and older patients with serious mental illness can be difficult. Often these patients suffer from other medical conditions and are at increased risk of premature death. In order to help patients cope with their illness, researchers from Dartmouth developed a smartphone-based intervention using adaptive systems engineering framework and principles of user-centred design.BJHC_elderlylady_mobile_mini_0_8

“The use of mobile health interventions by adults with serious mental illness is a promising approach that has been shown to be highly feasible and acceptable,” explained lead investigator Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, of the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

They found that even patients with limited technical abilities could use this app successfully. The app and intervention protocol were developed using commercially available products from Wellframe.

Following multiple design iterations, investigators tested the app’s usability and found Ten participants with serious mental illness and other chronic health conditions reported a high level of usability and satisfaction with the smartphone application.

The app takes patients through 10 sessions over a period of around three months, covering topics such as stress vulnerability and illness, medication adherence and strategies, and substance and medication abuse. Physicians can remotely monitor app use, and intervene when problems are detected, facilitating telemedicine for less accessible populations.

This study is part of a special issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that captures an important moment in the evolving relationship between technology and the clinical care of

 

Vitamin B3 could prevent miscarriages and birth defects

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An extra dose of vitamin B3 might help prevent certain kinds of complex birth defects, according to a new study. It is thought the vitamin can help compensate for defects in the body’s ability to make a molecule, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which researchers have now linked for the first time to healthy fetal development in humans.

Every year 7.9 million babies are born with a birth defect worldwide. The discovery suggests the possibility that boosting levels of B3 in pregnant women’s diets might help lower overall rates of birth defects.

Researchers from the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney called it ‘a double breakthrough’ as they found both a cause and a preventative solution. The researchers analysed the DNA of four families where the mothers had suffered multiple miscarriages or their babies were born with multiple birth defects, such as heart, kidney, vertebrae and cleft palate problems.

They found mutations in two genes that caused the child to be deficient in a vital molecule known as Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which allows cells to generate energy and organs to develop normally. Lead researcher Prof Sally Dunwoodie replicated these mutations in mice and found they could be corrected if the pregnant mother took niacin (vitamin B3).

“You can boost your levels of NAD and completely prevent the miscarriages and birth defects. It bypasses the genetic problem,” she said. “It’s rare that you find a cause and a prevention in the same study. And the prevention is so simple, it’s a vitamin,” she said.

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Back In 2005, Dunwoodie’s team dealt with a particularly severe case, a baby who had major defects in the heart, backbone, and ribs; the rib problems being so bad that the child’s lungs couldn’t fully inflate. The team found that the family carried a mutation in a gene related to the production of NAD, a molecule crucial for energy storage and DNA synthesis in cells. Both parents carried a mutation in one of their copies of the gene, and the affected baby had inherited two defective copies.

No one had reported any role for NAD in heart or bone development, Dunwoodie says. “We didn’t know what to do with it.”

To confirm the role of the mutations in organ and bone development, the researchers knocked out the two genes in mice to see whether similar birth defects appeared. At first all the pups were normal. But then the researchers realised that standard mouse chow is rich in niacin and that cells can use either niacin or nicotinamide—both known together as vitamin B3—to make NAD by an alternate pathway.

The work opens a potentially exciting new area of research for developmental biologists: Trying to understand how cell metabolism affects development

 

 

App “as effective as the contraceptive pill”

A revolutionary form of contraception, especially available over-the-counter, has been long awaited. This year alone we have seen trials in male contraceptive injections and demands for numerous OTC contraceptive pills. Drastic change and action have long been in high demand.

What started out as a hobby project for Elina Berglund Scherwitzl has now become approved as the world’s first contraceptive app. The nuclear physicist, who had been working on the team that discovered the Higgs boson, felt finished with hormonal contraceptives and their physical and mental pitfalls, but was not yet ready to have a baby.

With a wealth of data skills, Elina was determined to find an alternative form of contraception. “Like many women I had tried many different contraception options since my teenage years and hadn’t really found a solution that fit me,” she explained. “It was in my quest for an effective natural alternative that I discovered that you can see when you’re fertile by your temperature, and for me that was really a revelation.”

Using complex mathematics and data analysis, Elina began developing an algorithm designed to be so accurate that it could identify exactly when in her cycle she would ovulate. This then enabled planning for when she would need to use protection, to a much higher degree of certainty than natural planning methods, which many women with timely periods are able to use.

These results proved to be so accurate that, together with her husband, fellow physicist, Raoul Scherwitzl, Elina set about founding her own business, Natural Cycles.

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Natural Cycles is an app designed to help women around the world with their fertility and contraception needs, allowing them to collect their own temperature datasets and closely monitor their cycle trends in the process.

Launched in 2014, the app now has some 300,000 users, who pay a monthly or annual fee for the service. Following several medical trials, the app became the first tech-based device on the planet to be formally certified for use as contraception, in February this year. It gained approval for use across the EU after getting the green light from the German inspection and certification organisation Tuv Sud.

The start-up now markets itself as being “as effective as the pill” following one of the largest clinical studies in contraception involving more than 4,000 women, published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care.

The researchers, which included the co-founding couple, found that 7% of women who used the app in a “typical” way (allowing for some human error) got pregnant, compared to 9% taking the pill and less than 1% using IUD coils. “Just like the pill we need some effort from the user on a daily basis. But we really hope to be the default alternative if you don’t want to use hormonal contraception or IUDs,” Elina commented.

While the product is only currently certified in the EU, where its users are concentrated in the UK and the Nordics, it is available worldwide and, despite its earlier controversies, has attracted users in some 160 countries.

Exploragen launches new sleep app

DNA lifestyle company Exploragen last week launched their first iOS app, which is available on Helix.com. The online marketplace of DNA-powered products offers insights on nutrition, fitness, health, ancestry, family and entertainment. The new app, which is named SlumberType, is a lifestyle app providing insights on the genetics of sleep, enabling people to understand the way sleep can be influenced by DNA.

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By analysing four key sleep measurements – Chronotype, Sleep Quality, Sleep Onset Latency and Sleep Duration – the app helps users conclude whether they are a morning or night person, how long it may take them to fall asleep, the duration and quality of their sleep, and how these factors may affect other areas of their lives. SlumberType also features tools and trackers which monitor everyday behaviour that potentially affects sleep.

“Our bodies function at their best when we get the right amount of sleep. SlumberType will allow people to understand how their unique biology, combined with their daily habits and activities, affects their sleep patterns, so they can optimise their lifestyle for better sleep”, said Exploragen co-founder and Head of Science Sara Riordan.

The app was recently launched on 24th July and is available now on Helix.com.