Digital Pill: When Technology and Medicines Join Forces

The digital pill: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first ever drug with an ingestible sensor that records the time when it is taken by the patient. A new era in pharmacy has just opened. 

On November 13, the FDA announced it has approved, in the United States, the first digital drug, Abilify MyCite, indicated in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Each Abilify MyCite pill contains a sensor which, once ingested, sends a message to a patch worn by the patient. The message is then relayed to a mobile application. In doing so, the patient can then track the ingestion of their medication on a smartphone. Patients can also permit their doctor or another health professional to do the same.

The new technology should eventually permit improvement in adhering to treatment, which is costly to the health care system and to patients. The World Health Organization estimates around 50% non-adherence in the treatment of chronic diseases. In the United States alone it is associated with costs in the neighbourhood of $100 billion.

The digital pill is not yet available in Canada. However, it is safe to bet that the technology will expand in the pharmaceutical industry and will eventually target treatment of diseases other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia affects about 1 in 100 people. The disease is a mental disorder and presents with symptoms such as delusions, visual or auditory hallucinations, disorganized behaviour and memory problems.

For its part, bipolar disorder, or manic depressive psychosis, is characterized by mood swings ranging from mania to depression. As with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder is controlled by taking medication.

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