The FDA has approved the first “digital pill,” and here’s what that means
In what might be the most futuristic piece of news today, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new digital pill which senses when medication is swallowed and sends this and other information to your smartphone. Now, there’s one less excuse for forgetting to take your medicine.
This new drug-device combo is only currently available in a pill called Abilify MyCite, which is used for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. The Abilify tab comes embedded with an Ingestible Event Marker (IEM) sensor, which is about the size of a single particle of sugar. The IEM then sends information to a patch the user wears on their body, and that information gets transferred to their smartphone.
How does this happen, you ask?
The acid in your stomach activates an electrical signal, which is picked up by the patch worn on your left rib cage. The patch also acts as a fitness tracker of sorts, recording activity levels, sleeping patterns, and heart rate — though it must be replaced every seven days.
Once sent to an app on your phone, the info can then be accessed by health care professionals, caregivers, or friends and family if the patient gives authorization.
The technology was developed over a 10-year period by Silicon Valley-based Proteus Digital Health in a partnership with Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka. This could mean significant advancements in treatment for many disorders — especially psychiatric illnesses, which rely heavily on patients consistently taking their meds.
But psychiatric diseases aren’t the only illnesses this digital pill can help treat. According to ABC News, approximately half of all people with heart disease, for instance, don’t take their medication regularly.
Basically, if this sensor becomes mainstream it could drastically change the way we live and the health of many Americans.