The first digital pill that has the capability to track whether you’ve taken it or not has just been approved by the FDA. Designed with an ingestible digital tracking system, the antipsychotic medication Abilify My Cite was created with a sensor that’s ingestible and that sends info to a patch. That patch is then able to transmit the info to a mobile app, notifying whether or not someone has taken the drug.
Abilify is a branded model of aripiprazole which is a drug typically used to treat bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and adult depression. Abilify is manufactured by the Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical. The extremely small sensor embedded into the medication is manufactured by the company Proteus. The sensor used is no bigger than a speck of sand. The sensor only activates after it has been ingested, when it reaches stomach fluid. By activating the sensor, the time as well as the date is then recorded. The patient wears the patch mentioned earlier. As the data is received in the smartphone app, it becomes shareable with the patient’s family or caregiver as appropriate.
Though complicated, it marks an impressive step in the world of digital medicine. That said, it does not address non-adherence to medication schedules which is highly common in people suffering from many health conditions, including notably hypertension and high cholesterol. Abilify MyCite addresses a medication designated for mental health however and not physical.
The FDA in its approval communicated in a statement its support of the development of technology in prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration has reiterated its commitment to working with tech companies in finding new ways in which patients may benefit.
As the world awaits approval for the next digital drug, be aware that Abilify MyCite was approved with several conditions. For example, the digital nature of the product has not been shown to improve patients’ compliance with medication treatment. Also, the tech embedded into the pill is not being recommended to track pill intake in real-time or in an emergency situation. This is due to detection being delayed or the possibility that it may not occur at all.
Many are surprised that the first digital drug is an antipsychotic, which is used as treatment for schizophrenia patients who experience paranoia and delusions that they are being watched. In terms of how it plays on an individual’s likelihood of paranoia, it does not do favorably.
There are some in the medical community who have even gone as far as to say that a system to monitor behaviour and signals out from the body like this should not be applied to a drug for schizophrenia.
Despite the many concerns, caregivers and family members who are worried about whether a person is taking their medication have shown support for the Abilify MyCite digital drug. Existing tech on this front has involved tracking how often a pill bottle is opened though all this is truly tracking is whether a pill bottle is being opened or closed. Via Abilify MyCite, ingestion is required. Even as questions surrounding data security continue to be argued, it’s inarguable that the approval of Abilify MyCite by the FDA has now opened the door for further tech to be embedded into prescription medications.