Regeneron tried to bridge the patient-physician conversation gap by building a branded app for aflibercept injection Eylea, said Natalie Mancuso, a senior product manager at Regeneron.

The virtual and augmented reality market, forecasted by Digi-Capital to reach $108 billion in revenue by 2021, may be one of the newest to catch the eye of marketers but there has to be a problem to solve first for it to be effective, according to one pharma executive.

It can be tempting to adopt the latest, coolest technology. “But it’s not so cool and fun when nobody uses your asset,” Natalie Mancuso, a senior product manager at Regeneron, said Thursday at MM&M‘s FutureTech Pharma workshop in Philadelphia. Mancuso worked on the launch of a virtual- and augmented-reality application for patients with retinal disease.

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The problem Regeneron was trying to solve was a conversation gap between patients with retinal disease and their physicians, a conversation that the company wanted to influence, in order to drive prescriptions of its aflibercept injection Eylea. The drug is approved to treat three eye disorders: neovascular age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, and macular edema following retinal vein occlusion.

“When these ophthalmologists are diagnosing retinal disease, they’re looking for microscopic fluid in the back of the eye,” said Mancuso. “It’s a very clinical approach to treatment, whereas our patients are saying, ‘Hey, I can’t see anymore.’”

Patients were having a difficult time describing their visual impairment, how it impacted their daily lives, and the fear it fueled, said Mancuso.

“So we built an app, and we essentially gave the smartphone retinal disease,” said Mancuso.

Developed with Intouch Solutions, the In My Eyes app was introduced at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s convention last year. The drugmaker later rolled out the app to its sales force at a kickoff campaign meeting for Eylea earlier this year. The app is now available on iTunes and Google Play.

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The app has two different modes — story mode offers users three set daily scenarios such as having lunch with friends, while live mode allows users to impose symptoms such as black spots and blurriness in real-time.

The app offers both physicians and the sales force a humanized approach to treating retinal disease, and it allows caregivers to better understand what patients are going through, said Mancuso.

“One of our retinal specialists said, ‘I got to walk in their shoes. I never thought about it from that particular aspect,’” said Mancuso.