FDA Approves First Digital Pill

The pill connects to a smartphone app in order to track when the pill was taken.

By kmvq on November 16, 2017
(Photo Illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first digital pill, Abilify MyCite, which connects to a smartphone app in order to track if and when the pill was taken.

The pill has an ingestible sensor that communicates with a patch the patient wears, which then transmits the data to the app. The patient’s doctor and up to four authorized persons can then access the information, and the patient can revoke access at any time. According to the Verge, Abilify treats schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and is an add-on treatment for depression.

The pill has been released by Japanese pharmaceutical Otsuka and digital medicine service Proteus Digital Health. It was developed as a way to address the common problem of patients not taking medication properly.

Some experts, however, are concerned about what this invention means for patient privacy. Ameet Sarpatwari, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The New York Times the digital pill “has the potential to improve public health. [But] if used improperly, it could foster more mistrust instead of trust.”

Otsuka has yet to announce how much the Abilify pills may cost. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is interested in working with insurers in covering the pills, and may only move on with production if they are able to find willing insurers.

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