The new FDA-approved ‘digital pill’ may be hotboy but is it the future?
Would you ever pop a pill that sends a notification to your phone once ingested? Yes or no, the FDA just approved one.
That’s right, it is so hotboy… but it’s also the future.
According to a recent NYT report, the FDA-approved digital pill is embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine.
This sure is a new way to take your daily “antidote.”
But why is ‘big brother’ instilling this new way of poppin’ pills? According to experts, noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year.
Of course, patients will have to sign consent forms before agreeing to send pill intake reports to their doctor and possibly four other trusted family members.
The reports will send notifications with details of what time and date the pill was ingested.
Ambilify, an antipsychotic, is the drug that’s using the digital technology. Ambilify is taken by those who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and, in conjunction with an antidepressant, major depressive disorder.
Prescription surveillance is necessary for medications like Ambilify because patients who have such symptoms don’t normally take their medicine. This can have dire consequences.
The symptoms of schizophrenia, paranoia, and delusions raise questions. Will Ambilify be accepted by said patients? According to Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department,
“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…”
Ambilify paired up with their manufacturing company, Otsuka and Proteus Digital Health, and created the copper, magnesium, and silicon sensor.
How does it work?
According to Andrew Thompson, Proteus’s president and chief executive, “the sensor, containing copper, magnesium and silicon generates an electrical signal when splashed by stomach fluid, like a potato battery.”
Once the signal goes off the Ambilify MyCite pill sends a detected message to a band-aid like patch that is attached to the rib. The patch then sends the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone.
Patients will also be able to add their mood and amount of time rested.
But doctors still think it’s sus. In fact, many doctors, according to the NYT, think it could be coercive. Dr. Peter Kramer, a psychiatrist and the author of Listening to Prozac, think it’s like “packaging a medication with a tattletale.”
Dr. Kramer thinks the idea is ethical for “a fully competent patient who wants to lash him or herself to the mast,” but a “‘digital drug’ sounds like a potentially coercive tool.”
Ameet Sarpatwari, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the digital pill,
“Has the potential to improve public health but if used improperly, it could foster more mistrust instead of trust.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. asked, “Is it going to lead to people having fewer relapses, not having unnecessary hospital readmissions, being able to improve their vocational and social life?”
“There’s an irony in it being given to people with mental disorders that can include delusions. It’s like a biomedical Big Brother.”
Although Ambilify will roll out their digital medication next year, they are not the only pharmaceutical companies advancing their pill-popping technologies.
According to the NYT report, EtectRx, makes another ingestible sensor, the ID-Cap, which has been or is being tested with opioids, H.I.V. medication, and other drugs.
Also, AiCure, a smartphone-based visual recognition system, in which patients document taking medicine, has had success with tuberculosis patients.
Is this scary or what? Very. But, all we can do is wait and see what happens. Hopefully, this technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.