A biomedical Big Brother? FDA approves first digital pill to ensure patients take their medication

Posted at 10:15 AM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-14 10:15:29-05

We knew sooner or later there'd be a computer in everything, but the Food and Drug Administration has just approved America's first digital pill. 

It's called Abilify MyCite, and it's outfitted with a sensor the size of a grain of sand that activates when it comes in contact with stomach acid, according to The Verge. That signal goes to a patch worn by the patient, which transmits medical data to a smartphone app.

That means doctors will finally be able to know for a fact whether their patients are taking their prescribed medication as indicated or if their patients are skipping doses, the New York Times reports.

“When patients don’t adhere to lifestyle or medications that are prescribed for them, there are really substantive consequences that are bad for the patient and very costly,” Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer of the health plan division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told The Times.

Besides tracking dosages, the patch records physical activity, sleep patterns and heart rate, according to The Verge. It must be replaced once weekly.

The Times called Abilify "an arguably unusual choice" as the first digital medication since it's "prescribed to people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and, in conjunction with an antidepressant, major depressive disorder."

“Many of those patients don’t take meds because they don’t like side effects, or don’t think they have an illness, or because they become paranoid about the doctor or the doctor’s intentions,” Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department, told The Times. “You would think that, whether in psychiatry or general medicine, drugs for almost any other condition would be a better place to start than a drug for schizophrenia.”