GSK, Propeller 'smart inhaler' gets FDA green light

Propeller sensor, Ellipta inhaler and Propeller app

Propeller Health scored an FDA clearance for the use of its digital respiratory disease management system with GlaxoSmithKline’s dry powder inhaler, Ellipta. The clearance comes after the duo teamed up on “smart inhaler” tech back in December 2015.

Propeller Health’s sensor attaches to various inhalers to track when patients take their medication. Usage data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, where patients and physicians can see where, when and why patients use their inhalers. The sensor forms the base of Propeller’s digital therapy platform, which uses machine learning to help patients manage their condition, Propeller said.

“The approval of the Propeller platform for use with the Ellipta inhaler will help us understand how patients interact with the Ellipta accurately and in real-time,” said Dave Allen, Glaxo’s respiratory R&D chief, in a statement. “… We hope to gain valuable insights into usage patterns with the ultimate goal of driving improvements in patient care while reducing the complexity and cost of clinical trials.”

When the companies teamed up last year, Propeller agreed to develop a custom sensor for the Ellipta inhaler. While it was GSK’s first foray into smart inhalers, Propeller had previously created a sensor for the Diskus, another Glaxo inhaler, but did not partner with the company to do so.

At the time of the deal, GSK was enduring dwindling sales of its blockbuster Advair, an asthma and COPD drug that was facing generic competition in Europe and payer pressure in the U.S. Its new respiratory meds, Breo and Anoro Ellipta, scored FDA approval in 2013, but did not reel in enough revenues to offset its Advair declines until this August. In the second quarter this year, GSK reported that its new respiratory drugs posted £243 million in sales, with Breo sales making up 60% of the haul at £146 million. In comparison, Advair sales dipped to just £60 million.

Meanwhile, this is Propeller’s eighth FDA clearance to date. The company has inked more than 45 commercial programs around its tech in the U.S., with healthcare systems, payers, employers and other partners. And it isn't done yet: The company snagged a $21.5 million Series C last month and plans to make even more pharma and commercial partnerships.