The first “trackable” digital pill : Abilify MyCite

 

On November 13, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first digital pill which tracks if patients have taken their medication as directed. 

Healthcare and technology

We already knew connected cars and smartwatches. This technology now applies to medicine. Indeed, U.S. regulators have approved the first digital pill, called Abilify MyCite, with an ingestible sensor that can tell doctors whether (and when) patients take their medicine.

Abilify is indicated for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and as an add-on treatment for depression. The Japanese pharmarceutical company Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. developed the active substance (aripiprazole), and the American digital medicine service Proteus Digital Health the sensor (tracking device).

• Operation

Abilify MyCite contains a digital ingestion tracking system. How does it work ?

An ingestible sensor communicates with a wearable patch. An electrical signal is transmitted to the patch (replaced every seven days) when the sensor (the size of a grain of sand) comes into contact with stomac acide. Then, the patch sends data (like the time the pill was taken and the dosage) to a smartphone app over Bluetooth.

• Privacy concerns

The patch transfers data to a mobile application. The patient can voluntarily allow his doctor and up to four other people (including family members) to access the information through a portal. On the contrary, he can change his mind and revoke access at any time.

And if medicine could spy on patients ? Abilify MyCite raises Privacy concerns and some are worried about “biomedical Big Brother”.

“Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients”, said Mitchell MATHIS, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Ameet SARPATWARI, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the digital pill “has the potential to improve public health”, but added “if used improperly, it could foster more mistrust instead of trust”.

 

 

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