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.

Apple deal with device maker sign of more to come?

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Apple announced at its recent WorldWide Developers Conference in California that it would soon be offering users the chance to monitor their glucose levels. The company has partnered with medical device maker Dexcom and will link the company’s glucose monitoring device with the Apple Watch.

For some time now, Apple has been positioning itself as a dedicated health and fitness provider through the Apple Watch series. However, while Apple has previously marketed itself towards lifestyle and fitness fanatics, it has yet to enter the medical device sector.

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Apple has also previously been reported to be hiring a small team of biomechanical engineers to develop sensors that monitor the body’s blood sugar levels. The team are said to be working on non-invasive sensors that do no require users to prick their skin for blood testing.

Apple is also now home to our new OTC DASHBOARD app. To download it from the Apple Store now, click here.

Pfizer unveils antimicrobial ATLAS

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Last week Pfizer announced the launch of the their Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance (ATLAS) website. The site is designed to supply physicians and the global health community with easy access to crucial data on the efficacy of numerous antibiotic treatments and emerging resistance patterns across more than 60 countries.

The interpretation of evolving bacterial resistance patterns is a key development in the process of understanding and managing the rise of antimicrobial resistance. Putting this into perspective, ATLAS can not only help physicians select the most appropriate treatment choices for their patients but also enable global health authorities to develop data-driven antimicrobial resistance mitigation strategies.

Pfizer officially unveiled ATLAS at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ECCMID) in Vienna last Saturday. With smartphones and tablets providing such benefits for healthcare professionals these days, Pfizer also offers ATLAS as a mobile app to enable speedy access to vital resistance information during patient care.

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The application works as an interactive platform allowing physicians to evaluate data, conduct analyses and export tables and figures that include parameters such as pathogen, region, specimen source and in vitro susceptibility data.

Another great benefit is that the database is updated every six months with new resistance data from healthcare institutions in over 60 countries.

Dr Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, said the database was “an important aspect for physicians when treating patients”, adding that “knowledge of where certain resistant bacterial infections tend to occur and knowledge of which antibiotics remain effective against them”. The CMO further added: “ATLAS underscores our continued commitment to providing patients and physicians with meaningful resources that can help ensure appropriate utilisation of antibiotics and improve infection prevention and control.”

#NHOTC17: Day 2

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This week we publish our second and final blog update on our 28th European OTC INSIGHT conference, which took place in Munich earlier this month and was centred on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology. Below is a quick round-up of proceedings on Day 2.

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Ed Rowland opens Day 2 proceedings

Ed Rowland opened the conference with an update on key drivers and dynamics in the US OTC strategic landscape. Akhil Chandra of Reckitt Benckiser led us into our final networking hour with a discussion on what makes an iconic brand in a world of biosimilar products. Chandra based his talk around the “iconicity” of Nurofen, insisting that when it comes to brands we should challenge the tendency to default, and instead create, identify and nurture iconic / symbolic elements.

Following an hour of networking with OTC peers, our delegates returned for our final session with Jesus Carrasco, Head of Healthcare at Société Générale, who discussed consolidation and the increasing attractiveness of the consumer healthcare industry from a corporate and investor perspective.

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Thornsten Umland from Bayer gave the final presentation on strategic growth and how to build OTC businesses and brands via well executed acquisition and true product innovation.

And finally, a personal message from Nicholas: “Thank you all for making a brilliantly successful conference, the array of speakers and topics covered have certainly left us all with food for thought on the OTC landscape in a world of digital!

As an official announcement, now the conference has ended, we hope to see you next year in… BARCELONA for our 29th European OTC conference #NHOTC18. Auf Wiedersehen or should I say… Adios!”

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Are wearables wearing thin?

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The wearables market has had a rollercoaster ride in recent months. This time a year ago analysts were penning multi-billion dollar forecasts for the developers of health trackers and smartwatches. Apple was setting the stakes high, brazenly selling a gold edition of the Apple Watch for US$10,000.

More recently though, once popular fitness tracker brand, Jawbone, confirmed to TechCrunch that it would be leaving the consumer market in order to focus on healthcare providers. Microsoft have also removed its Fitness Band from its online store (although it is still available on Amazon); most significantly they will no longer provide the Band developer kits.

Fitbit remains a leading brand name, and is still very much the heart of the fitness tracker revolution. Fitbit recently acquired one of its rivals, Pebble Watch. However, on the downside, it was reported that the company were making staff cuts and founder James Park said the firm had experienced “softer than expected” sales during the 2016 Christmas period.

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Numerous devices claim to measure heart rate, sleep activity and count calories. Counting steps is seemingly the most common use for wearable devices, which has been edifying for many in terms of daily exercise expectations. Recently, though, experts have questioned whether the golden goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is actually worthwhile, and a US study concluded that health trackers did not aid weight loss.

Mr Bryant from Futuresource says many wearables aren’t yet independent enough and rely on being tethered to a smartphone, or replicate functionality, such as step counting, that the handset already has. However, Mr Bryant believes that while wearables may be down, they are not yet out.

“We feel the slowdown is temporary and the market will accelerate this year,” he said. He thinks that improved power, appearance, and mobile pay options could give them a boost alongside a maturing user group.

Wearable Devices will be one of many themes explored at our 28th Annual OTC INSIGHT European Conference & Action Workshop, being held in Munich in just over a month! The wider conference will focus on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology. To reserve one of our final few places, please contact lianne.hill@NicholasHall.com