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.
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.
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.
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.
The University of Tokyo has recently started to develop a new generation of wearable diagnostics. The hypoallergenic electronic sensor wearables are designed to monitor health indicators without being invasive or causing any discomfort.
The electronic sensors are made up of breathable nanoscale meshes that attach directly to the skin to produce accurate and precise readings of heart rate and other health indicators. Japanese scientists believe the new wearables can be worn for up to one week, without causing any irritation. However, if devices are worn over a longer period it is thought they may be deemed unsafe, as they prevent breathability and block airflow causing irritation and inflammation.
“We learned that devices that can be worn for a week or longer for continuous monitoring were needed for practical use in medical and sports applications” says Professor Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering.
The device can be applied by spraying a small amount of water, which dissolves PVA nanofibres to allow it to stick to the skin. It is designed to fit curvilinear surfaces of skin making it ideal to apply to sweat pores and index fingers.
Scientists are hopeful this is the beginning of a new chapter for wearable diagnostics and hope that it will be possible to measure health indicators without causing stress or discomfort to the user. The device is thought to not only be the future for medical diagnostics, but also have applications for sports technology.
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.
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.
VTT TecVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a wearable assistive device for the visually impaired, which enables them to sense their environment and move around more safely. The device, which is worn like a heart rate monitor, has been clinically tested.
The device functions on the basis of a radar system developed by VTT. The radar sends information to the user in the form of vibrations or voice feedback. It senses a majority of obstacles in the user’s surroundings, however difficulties do however remain in sensing objects such as thin branches and bushes.
“The novel aspect lies in a wearable sensor device which functions based on radio waves, so the signal is able to pass through clothing. This means that it can be worn discreetly under a coat, for example,” says Tero Kiuru, a Senior Scientist at VTT.
The radar has already been clinically tested in device trials approved by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), in which VTT’s partners were Kuopio University Hospital and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired (FFVI). The test group included a total of 25 visually impaired people, of whom 14 were blind, 7 partially sighted and 4 were deaf-blind.
“A clear majority of the testers felt that the radar improved their ability to perceive their environment and increased their self-confidence when moving around,” says Kiuru. A total of 92% of the trial users felt that the device helped them to perceive their surroundings, 80% felt that their trust in their ability to move around independently had increased and 32% would immediately start using the test device in its current form.
On the other hand, they were not satisfied with distance control and vibration-based feedback. The research will continue with selected test users and the device will be further developed. A global market is believed to exist for the radar, since there are around 300 million visually impaired people in the world.
A new soft, flexible microfluidic device sticks on forearm or back skin to measure sweat and show how the body is responding to exercise. The small, simple, low cost device analyses key biomarkers to help a person decide quickly if any adjustments, such as drinking more water or replenishing electrolytes, is needed, or if something is medically wrong.
It is designed for one-time use of a few hours and features a number of innovations including:
• The ability to capture, store and analyse sweat in situ and in real time
• Can quantitatively determine biomarker levels using colorimetric analysis
• A power source is not required to display the results; instead, a smartphone camera and app are used to read the biomarker change
The device’s sensitivity even enables it to pick up the biomarker for cystic fibrosis and it is hoped that in future it may be used more broadly for disease diagnosis.
Study leader John A. Rogers, professor of materials science and engineering, discussed the device: “The intimate skin interface created by this wearable, skin-like microfluidic system enables new measurement capabilities not possible with the kinds of absorbent pads and sponges currently used in sweat collection.”
The team have studied the efficacy of the device in two groups of cyclists and found it to be both accurate compared to conventional lab analysis and durable in unpredictable environmental conditions. Their findings were published on 23rd November in Science Translational Medicine.
In its fourth year, and the second time hepatitis testing has been included, European HIV Testing Week is currently in action. Starting on 18th November, and finishing a week later, testing week is spanning the length and breadth of the continent with partners participating from over 50 European countries.
Prior to this, the world’s fastest HIV self-test kit went on sale last week in order to relieve pressure on overcrowded sexual health clinics.
bioLytical Laboratories, renowned for their production of rapid infectious disease tests, has developed the INSTI HIV Self Test, following research revealing that over 103,000 people are living with HIV in the UK and an estimated 18,100 remain unaware of their positive status.
It was reported recently that funding cuts have resulted in clinic closures across the country meaning the pressure is on for remaining clinics. Failure to fund routine testing in GP surgeries is leading to late diagnosis when early treatment of the disease is highly beneficial.
With one prick to a finger and a droplet of blood, the INSTI HIV Self Test provides immediate results and is over 99% accurate. Other home testing kits can take up to 20 minutes to produce a result, and in some cases laboratory test results can take several days or weeks.
The INSTI HIV Self Test kit also includes a resource card on where to seek help or for those who have general questions on HIV screening.
The test is available now online at www.INSTI-HIVSelfTest.com and costs €29.95 (£25.95) per kit.