A patch for everything
Sensor-containing products as are the next wave of medical and healthcare disposables, and continue to be introduced at an alarming rate – as do new university spin-off companies formed to launch them.
This suggests that the supermarket shelves could soon be bulging with such products, and that a big new opportunity for nonwoven converters seeking to differentiate and expand their ranges may be unfolding.
German consultancy Wearable Technologies AG is predicting that smart patches to remedy just about any ailment will become ubiquitous in the next few years, while market analyst Tractica has forecast that worldwide unit shipments of connected wearable patches will grow to 12.3 million by 2020 – up from just 67,000 in 2014.
In recent developments, Medherant, a spin-out company from the University of Warwick in the UK, has developed and patented the world’s first ever ibuprofen patch, which delivers the drug directly through the skin to exactly where it is needed at a consistent dose rate.
The transparent adhesive patch delivers significant amounts of the anti-inflammatory drug – up to 30% weight – incorporated into the polymer matrix that sticks the patch to the patient’s skin, with the drug then being delivered at a steady rate over up to 12 hours. This opens the way for the development of a range of long-acting over-the-counter pain-relief products which can be used to treat common painful conditions like chronic back pain, neuralgia and arthritis without the need to take potentially damaging doses of the drug orally. Although there are a number of popular ibuprofen gels available, these make it difficult to control dosage and are inconvenient to apply.
The patch incorporates polymer technology developed by Bostik and exclusively licensed for transdermal use to Medherant.
Health Care Originals is a New York-based spin off from the University of Rochester which aims to exploit patented technology for the management of chronic respiratory diseases.
Its first product is ADDAM – a device to provide assistance to the 300 million people around the world who suffer from are asthma sufferers.
It comprises a sensor-containing wearable patch which links to a dedicated smartphone app’ to detect precursor signs of asthma and, significantly, it doesn’t need to be close to thea smart phone for it to do its work.
The recently-launched Echo H2 smart patch, which seeks to take health and sports performance monitoring – both at home and in clinical settings – to a new, multi-dimensional level.
This technology was originally developed for the European Space Agency in Switzerland and is being prepared for commercial launch by San Francisco-based Kenzen.
Kenzen believes that for such patches to deliver value they must reliably measure physiology – beyond just the vital signs.
“We have a comprehensive solution that includes both disposable sensors and a rechargeable monitor, all in the form of an adhesive patch,” says CEO Sonia Sousa. “The Kenzen smart patch can be worn on the body in locations that measure the best ECG, respiration, temperature and sweat signals.
“Hydration is really important as an underlying condition of health. Having a patch that has both solutions – vital signs and recognition of biomarkers in sweat – allows our product to be relevant in clinical situations. It is important that we have a comprehensive system that can be customised to the user.”
A simple, skin cancer-detecting plaster is even being developed at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, which inventor Zeev Zalevsky believes could soon be mass manufactured and made available to the consumer market at a cost of around just three dollars.
It contains an array of micro needles which each contain light sensor components to monitor the colour of the painless ‘micro wounds’ they impart on the skin.
“We have been able to show in pre-clinical trials that the colour varies significantly if the skin is close to tumour tissue,” says Valevsky. “The device could significantly reduce the probability of missing malignant tissues.”
Market intelligence firm Tractica is predicting the market for clinical and non-clinical connected wearable patches will be worth $3.3 billion annually by 2020.
“Driven by rising healthcare costs, a growth in the number of people with chronic diseases and ageing populations, connected wearable patches are becoming an attractive solution for governments, insurance companies and care providers, all of whom are searching for more cost-effective ways to monitor, diagnose, and treat patients,” says analyst Charul Vyas.
It appears that the medical disposables market – as will be widely represented by many companies at INDEX™17 in Geneva next April – is likely to take on an entirely different shape in the near future.
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