The Icelandic digital care platform Sidekick Health has partnered with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to offer a digital therapeutics (DTx) solution for atopic dermatitis (AD). Treating AD — a chronic inflammatory skin condition that’s also known as eczema — is often hindered by low patient adherence to treatments. And so Sidekick’s AI-driven therapeutics platform seeks to influence patient behavior through gamification techniques (yes, games), behavioral economics, and a digital support program that takes lifestyle factors into account.
The union of Sidekick and Pfizer seeks to address a global problem that’s greater than many people may assume; data published by the National Institutes of Health shows that AD affects up to 20% of children and 3% of adults across the globe. And those percentages are on the rise, particularly in developing countries. As there is no cure for AD, treatments that relieve the symptoms — which include itchy, cracked, and scaly skin — are the only mitigation options.
This latest initiative from the partnership between Sidekick Health and Pfizer, which was formed in 2020, aims at broadening its reach around the world. The current DTx rollout begins in Europe and expands to Japan, with a plan to be in 24 markets by 2024. Sidekick CEO Dr. Tryggvi Thorgeirsson says, “At Sidekick, it’s always been our ambition to help as many people as possible to make long-lasting improvements to lifestyle behaviors and improve their quality of life. Our work with Pfizer better enables us to reach our goal of bringing digital therapeutics into the homes of people around the world.”
Pfizer offers several traditional treatment options for AD, based on the severity of the conditions the patient experiences. These include topical therapies such as ointments and creams that are applied to the skin, as well as systemic therapies such as pills that affect the immune system. All treatments rely on the patient’s ability to stick to their regimens… which is where Sidekick comes in. With assistance from personal “Sidekicks,” users of the platform get guided help in managing their medication adherence, as well as assistance with stress management, nutrition, exercise, and more. Along the way, data that’s collected offers insights into behavioral trends.
Do we have evidence that Sidekick Health works? The company says a feasibility study shows that people who use their app to help them manage chronic illnesses showed an 83% increase in medication adherence.