Purdue Pharma, Geisinger kick off a one-year study to test Apple Watch for pain management

wearable smartwatch
Facing a barrage of lawsuits, Purdue Pharma is testing the use of wearables for chronic pain.

One of the country’s most prolific opioid manufacturers has officially launched a new study with Geisinger Health System to test another pain management strategy: wearables.

Initially announced in March, the one-year study sponsored by Purdue Pharma has officially enrolled its first patient, according to a press announcement on Thursday. Researchers plan to enroll 240 chronic pain patients treated at Geisinger’s specialty pain clinic.

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Participants will use the Apple Watch to collect and transmit patient-reported data on pain, physical activity, sleep quality, medication use and heart rate. Those data will be fed into a provider dashboard and integrated with Geisinger’s EHR platform where physicians can provide coaching and recommend non-opioid approaches to pain management.

Researchers will evaluate whether the wearable can improve pain scores while reducing pain medication and track longer-term changes in physical function.

The approach will “empower the patient to take more control of their own well-being” and “accelerate the speed of communication between the patient and healthcare providers, thereby allowing quicker patient access to appropriate care,” John J. Han, M.D., director of the department of pain management at Geisinger, said in a release.

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The study comes as Purdue is fighting off allegations from a slew of state and local governments accusing the manufacturer of contributing to the national opioid crisis. Late last month, Reuters reported Washington became the latest state to file a lawsuit against Purdue and several other opioid manufacturers. This week, NJ.com reported the state’s attorney general was preparing to file a lawsuit against Purdue for deceptive marketing practices.

At the same time, Apple’s new wearable has sparked interest from insurers and the medical research community. Last month, Apple COO Jeff Williams announced a partnership with Stanford to study the device’s ability to detect atrial fibrillation.