Digital pill that tracks medicine use gets US nod

Reuters
US regulators have approved the first digital pill with an embedded sensor to find out whether patients are taking their medication properly.
Reuters

US regulators have approved the first digital pill with an embedded sensor to find out whether patients are taking their medication properly, marking a significant step forward in the convergence of healthcare and technology.

The medicine is a version of Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s established drug Abilify for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, containing a tracking device developed by Proteus Digital Health.

The system offers doctors an objective way to know about whether patients are swallowing their pills on schedule, opening up a new avenue for monitoring medicine compliance that could be applied in other therapeutic areas.

Shares in Otsuka rose 2.5 percent on Tuesday after news of the pill’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

The FDA said that being able to track ingestion of medicines prescribed for mental illness might be useful “for some patients,” although the ability of the digital pill to improve patient compliance had not been proved.

The system works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch, which then transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smartphone.

About the size of a grain of salt, the sensor has no battery or antenna and is activated when it gets wet from stomach juices. That completes a circuit between coatings of copper and magnesium on either side, generating a tiny electric charge.

In the longer term, such digital pills could also be used to manage patients with other complicated medicine routines, such as those suffering from diabetes or heart conditions.

Poor compliance with drug regimens is a common problem in many disease areas, especially when patients suffer from chronic conditions.

Proteus Digital Health has been working on the pill tracking system for many years and the sensor used in Abilify MyCite was first cleared for use by the FDA in 2012.

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