ProcureCon Pharma 2020

03 - 04 September, 2020


  • img
  • img

Johnson & Johnson is Twinning their App with Smart Blister Packs for More Accurate Clinical Trials


Recruitment and clinical trial adherence are two of the biggest challenges facing pharmaceutical companies today. However, Johnson & Johnson is using innovative digital technology to address both these issues head on.

Brothers Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson were inspired to produce a range of ready-to-use surgical dressings after hearing a speech by antiseptic advocate Joseph Lister (for whom mouthwash brand Listerine was named) in 1885. The company’s first products were put to market the following year, and since then have expanded and diversified into many industries from domestic products to surgical technology.

Today, Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest companies in the world (and the largest healthcare company) and employs over 126,000 people. The company has revenues of $71,890, which places it at #35 on the Fortune 500.

Janssen Research and Development

Janssen Research and Development is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, responsible for the rigorous testing which is required of pharmaceutical products before they are brought to market. The company employs more than 35,000 scientists and technology innovators who all work towards discovering and testing new solutions to some of the world’s biggest disease-related problems.


However, it’s impossible for Janssen to complete its mission without the participation of the public in its clinical trials. Each trial can require hundreds, or even thousands of volunteers, and recruiting them in such large numbers can often pose a significant challenge.

To combat the issue, Janssen has developed a Global Trial Finder to provide a convenient way for the public to find and volunteer for clinical trials in their area. The website allows people to learn more about what’s involved in clinical trials. Once guests feel suitably informed on the topic, they can search a database of trials – sorted by condition and area – and sign up via the website.


“We understand both the health-related reasons people seek to participate in clinical trials, and the motivation to help others who may face similar experiences in the future,” says Bert Hartog, PhD, Director and Clinical Trial Innovation Lead at Janssen. “So, we wanted to offer a resource for easily accessing our clinical trials globally – a resource that can enable us to continue to advance innovative medicines to treat, prevent, intercept and cure some of the most complex diseases of our time.”

Clinical Trial Adherence

Once a trial begins, the biggest challenge for Janssen is making sure participants stick to the rules and regime as much as possible. As scientific studies rely on a mixture of manipulation and control, any significant deviation from the rigors of the methodology can result in skewed data and inaccurate conclusions.

To assist, Janssen has developed the iSTEP technology toolset. By employing a blend of smart technology-enabled blister packs which register each pill as it is removed, and an innovative smartphone app which has been under development for five years, the iSTEP system is designed to remove barriers to clinical trial adherence.

The technology in the blister packs and smartphone app serves to remind participants when and how to take the medication, and feeds back to Janssen any deviation from the prearranged dosing routine.


“Once it ships out it is being scanned, the scanner information is fed into a central database,” said Dr. Andreas Koester, Vice President of Research and Development of Operations Innovation at Janssen. “It’s scanned again when it arrives at the investigation site. There are solutions out there that have tackled this first scan, but we have taken it a step further because we also scan the medication when it is dispensed to the patient, which is important because it prevents dispensation errors, which otherwise almost inevitably occur. Once the medication gets to the patient, the patient is able, on his smartphone, to watch instructional videos, to know how to take it, with or without food, what time of the day, how to press out the blisters – all things that we know from previous investigations patients typically struggle with.”

Final Thoughts

With these innovative solutions for recruitment and clinical trial adherence, Janssen is making sure the research into which new medicines are brought to market is done so with the strictest scientific rigor possible.

The final word goes to Dr. Andreas Koester.

“The mission of Janssen, as an innovation group, is to make clinical trials a better place for both investigators and patients. Rather than waiting for a solution to become available off the shelf, we thought, why wait? The components are available, the technology is there, and somebody needs to take the first step to integrate those available components and bring them together.”

Return to Blog