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U.S. regulators approved the first medicine with an embedded sensor to help track whether or not patients are following their prescriptions, reports Bloomberg. The so-called digital pill was made by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and Proteus Digital Health.
The pill is a version of Otsuka’s Abilify, which is a medicine that treats depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, reports Bloomberg. The sensor was developed by Proteus and is activated by stomach fluids. Once activated, it sends a signal to a patch worn on the patient’s torso and transmits the information to a smartphone app.
Kabir Nath, chief executive officer for North America at Otsuka Pharmaceutical, says that this is the first time anyone will have an objective measurement of whether patients are adhering to their prescriptions. Nath hopes to avert “dramatic and immediate health-care crises, such as for schizophrenia patients where missing medicines can result in a psychotic break which will land them in an ER,” according to Bloomberg.
The Food and Drug Administration’s approval comes as the technological sector increasingly turns to health care to test advances like machine learning, artificial intelligence and micro-electronics.
Mitchell Mathis, director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said that being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness “may be useful for some patients,” reports Bloomberg.
Though some are excited about the intersection of technology and medicine, others are worried about protecting patient privacy. Patients who are prescribed the digital pill, called Abilify MyCite, must agree that their physicians can see the data, and can choose whether or not caregivers, like family members, can see it too, reports Bloomberg. Others are worried that the digital pill will create a “looking-over-your-shoulder effect.”