Officials in the United States have approved the first digital pill that has a sensor in it to track if patients are taking their medications on time and in proper doses. This marks a big advancement in the union of health care and technology.
The pill is a variant of the drug Abilify from Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co Ltd., which works for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Abilify contains a tracking device made by Proteus Digital Health, Reuters reports.
The tracking system provides a way for doctors to objectively measure if patients are sticking to their medication schedules, opening doors for monitoring medicine intake methods in other areas of medicine and health care.
The Food and Drug Administration said that the ability to track ingested medicines for mental illness may be useful “for some patients,” even if the capability of the digital pill to increase patient compliance has not yet been proven.
Mitchell Mathis of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said,
The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.
The device works by transmitting a message from the pill to a wearable patch, which then sends the data to a smartphone app, so that patients can keep track of their medication intake personally.
The sensor in the pill is the size of a grain of salt, with no battery or antenna. It is activated by stomach juices, which completes a circuit between copper and magnesium coatings, producing a small electric charge.
The system could be used to manage patients who have long, complex medical routines in the future. Poor compliance with medicine schedules is a rampant problem among patients, and is an especially big problem in those who suffer from chronic conditions.
Proteus has been working on the digital pill for years, and the tracking sensor was first approved for use by the FDA in 2012.