Swallow Your Digital Pill

Nov 16, 2017, 02:01
Swallow Your Digital Pill

Smart pills are a thing and they've come one step closer to entering the mainstream after the FDA approved a pill packed with a digital sensor for the first time in the US. In the short term, it's being paired with Abilify, a drug used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. That information produced can also be accessed by caregivers and physicians through a web-based portal so they are able to keep track of the patients as well.

There are a couple of caveats, though. And because elderly people with dementia-related psychosis are at increased risk of death when taking antipsychotic drugs, the drug is not approved in this population, either.

The sensor itself is about the size of a grain of sand. An electrical signal is activated by the sensor when it comes into contact with stomach acid - the sensor then passes through the body naturally.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first digital pill for the United States which tracks if patients have taken their medication.

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Would you be happy taking a tablet that beams information to your smartphone?

"The time is right for the category of digital medicines to be available to appropriate patients with serious mental illness", Proteus Digital health president and CEO Andrew Thompson said.

Choudhry, whose work includes developing predictive analytics initiatives to spot patients who don't take their meds, estimates that almost $300 billion is spent in the USA each year in "caring for health conditions that are attributable to nonadherence".

The drug was made in collaboration with Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Proteus Digital Health, which designed the sensor.

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Users of the app - including the patient, but also any authorised doctors or family members - can then check in on the patient's ingestion data, keeping direct tabs on the timely swallowing of oral medication in private like never before.

The technology is meant to help prevent risky emergencies that can occur when patients skip their medication, such as manic episodes experienced by those suffering from bipolar disorder.

While patients could choose not to take the pill, its approval could raise questions about privacy and whether some patients might feel pushed into taking the digital pill.

It's aimed at people who are being treated for schizophrenia and as an add-on treatment for adults suffering with depression. Quoted in the New York Times, Harvard Medical School instructor Ameet Sarpatwari, MD, said a digital pill "has the potential to improve public health", but added that, "if used improperly, it could foster more mistrust instead of trust". However, Abilify MyCite is the only version now approved with the digital tracking system.

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