Pill with sensor has been approved by the FDA

A pill named Abilify MyCite, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), contains a sensor that is able to digitally track if a patient has ingested their medication.

Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with a sensor) is the first drug in the United States to be approved that contains a digital ingestion tracking system. The sensor in the pill enables a record to be made of when the medication was taken. Indications for which the medication is approved for include: treatment of schizophrenia, acute treatment of mixed and manic episodes associated with bipolar I disorder and for use as an adjunct treatment for depression in adults.

A message is sent to a wearable patch from the pill’s sensor; the patch can then transmit the information to a mobile application enabling patients to track the ingestion of the medication on their smart phone. If permission from the patient is granted, carers and physicians could also access the information through a web-based portal.

Although tracking the ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be helpful for some patients, Abilify MyCite’s prescribing information states that the “ability of the product to improve patient compliance with their treatment regimen has not been shown”. In an emergency the medication should not be used to track digestion as detection may be delayed or may not occur.

Abilify MyCite marks an advance in the convergence of healthcare and technology to help address the expensive and continual problem of patients not taking their medication as prescribed. However there are questions as to whether patients will feel comfortable about the ingestion of their medication being tracked. Mixed opinions have been given, for example one statement was that there is irony giving Abilify MyCite to people with mental disorders such as delusions and that “it’s like a biomedical Big Brother”.

Looking ahead, digital pills could also be used for patients with other medical indications such as diabetes or heart conditions.

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