STAT

From app store to drug store, digital health is redefining pharma’s pipeline

The pitches always sounded promising: A new software app could track glucose levels for people with diabetes or soothe the brains of insomniacs. Most pharma executives would politely smile and nod, but then park their money somewhere else.

Not anymore.

Backed by a growing body of evidence, software is itself becoming a prescription for diseases ranging from depression to heart disease, and drug companies are starting to take notice. In the past couple years, many have quickly ramped up their investments in digital startups, infusing software-based therapies into pipelines once dominated by traditional medicines.

These products, known broadly as digital therapeutics, deliver treatment to patients through video games, smartphone apps, and sensors buried in pills or attached to medication dispensers. They are designed to stimulate changes in behavior — and in some cases brain function — to help patients control a

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