The Future Is Here: Smart Bandages and Today’s Custom Pharmacy
These days, it’s hard to pick up a health or fitness magazine and not see some mention of a “smart device,” whether it’s a FitBit for monitoring physical activity or a mobile health app for tracking calorie intake. More than ever, we are seeing medicine married with technology so that patients can keep close track of their own health. However, even though most pharmacies feature machines to check blood pressure, weight and BMI, and even temperature through infrared monitoring, most people don’t associate their pharmacy with the latest and greatest in biotech.
This is a paradigm that the custom pharmacy should aim to change.
It’s a great idea — with physicians having less time to spend with their patients, pharmacies are increasingly becoming a place where patients get answers to their health-related questions. However, having been a key player in biotech R&D, I find myself wondering how the landscape would change if custom pharmacies were not simply the end user of biotech devices, but were included in the R&D process from the start.
Would patients be able to add their blood pressures and temperatures to their existing profiles, so their pharmacy could correlate their data with the medications they were filling? Could the results from a Dr. Scholl’s sole analysis machine, for example, be compared against medications that are associated with joint pain or diabetic conditions? Even better, could a custom pharmacy use these in-house results to voice their recommendations alongside those from a physician to best help patients?
Smart bandages are a vital area of research pharmacists should be exploring.
What Are Smart Bandages?
Smart bandages are ones that actively affect the treatment of a wound in a feedback process. For example, researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a bandage that changes color if dangerous bacteria are found in the wound. Instead of requiring physician follow-up to test what bacteria is present and what treatment is subsequently needed, the sensor in the bandage can identify the infectious bacteria so the physician can prescribe the appropriate treatment right away.
Another smart bandage still in research focuses on treatment of gunshot and other trauma wounds. These bandages have a dual function, with a clotting agent released at a different time than the necessary antibiotic. Still another bandage is being developed to detect bedsores before infection sets in. In the future, 3D printers might even be used to encourage wound healing by stimulating tissue growth.
What Is the Best Role for the Custom Pharmacy?
Compared to the Band-Aids we’ve been selling forever, smart bandages require more communication between patients, physicians, and pharmacists. Although, the primary care physician is supposed to be the expert tying multiple conditions and treatments together, whether by schedule, costs, or patient preference, the pharmacist often is the one monitoring patient medication. Add in compounding for personalized medicine, and some smart bandages in development are really not the best choice of treatment for the patient. Such considerations are not typically in play when new technology is under development, but they could be.
A simple entry into smart bandage technology would be to have pharmacists disseminate information about the new technology and capture patient feedback on factors the researcher and physicians are concerned about. Pharmacists are also well-suited to monitor such things as patient temperature and blood pressure when they come in for bandage refills.
But the sweet spot for the custom pharmacy really concerns how we can impact the R&D process as a whole.
For example, in the case of a dual function bandage for acute trauma wounds, can the gelatin-based matrix for antibiotic treatment be prepared at a custom pharmacy? Can other compounds known to be necessary for a given patient (for example burn hydrogels or gluten-free medications) be added in?
Can extended sensors, such as temperature, heart rate, and body movement be incorporated into the bandage so we can work with the physician on later treatment as needed?
As technology and medicine continue to collide, custom pharmacies need to be aware that we are not just the final stop of treatment. Our expertise in how drugs affect our patients, alone and in conjunction with others, is something yet missing from device development and represents an area we can grow to everyone’s benefit.
Pharmaceutica North America wants to be your partner, no matter what role you play in new treatment development. We provide safe and effective compounding ingredients that you and your customers can rely on. For more information on our products, please contact PNA today.