The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first “digital pill” – a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine. Until now, sensors that generate an electrical signal when encountering stomach fluid could not be embedded in pills.
The new integrated pill-sensor approach addresses the longstanding problem of millions of patients not taking drugs as prescribed. Experts estimate that non-adherence to medication costs about $100 billion a year because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization.
Patients who agree to take the digital medication, a version of the antipsychotic aripiprazole, sign consent forms allowing their doctors and up to four other people to receive electronic data; they can block recipients any time they change their mind.
Other companies are developing digital medications. This monitoring technology could potentially be used to monitor post-surgical patients taking opioid medication, clinical trial participants, and patients receiving long-term therapy for conditions such as chronic myeloid leukemia where adherence is critical for optimal outcomes. Insurers might eventually give patients incentives to use them.
Source: The New York Times, November 13, 2017.