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Bristol-Myers, Pfizer team with FitBit to track heart health in at-risk patients

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc. have teamed up with Fitbit Inc., maker of wearable fitness devices, to help detect arrhythmia in those at risk of stroke or heart failure.

Fitbit plans to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for software to detect atrial fibrillation, or AFib, on its devices but has not provided a timeline for the submission.

The company announced the partnership with the two makers of the blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis on Oct. 17 at the TIME 100 Health Summit as well as in a press release on the same day. Fitbit said the collaboration would help develop educational content and guidance for patients at risk of the heart condition, particularly those 65 and older. The condition can often be asymptomatic before a serious event.

AFib, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, is expected to affect about 8 million people in the U.S. in 2019, according to the Oct. 17 news release.

"Too many people discover that they are suffering from atrial fibrillation only after experiencing a stroke," said Joseph Eid, head of Medical Affairs at Bristol-Myers. "In fact, some studies suggest that this is true for more than 25% of people who have the condition."

By providing data on irregular heartbeats detected by Fitbit's wearable device, it is hoped that patients will discuss their heart condition with their physicians. "We are excited about wearables and how our work with Bristol-Myers and Fitbit may potentially help patients and physicians detect and understand heart rhythm irregularities," Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group President Angela Hwang said.

Bristol-Myers and Pfizer have emphasized real-world data — representing patients outside of the clinic — to track heart health and reach more patients at early stages of risk for a heart condition. Sales of the partners' drug Eliquis reached $3.76 billion in 2018.