Digital Drug Features Built-In Sensor To Ensure Patients Take Medication

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It is being called the world’s first digital drug – a pill with a built-in sensor.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, the pill is being hailed as a way to make sure patients take their medication. But it is also raising some privacy concerns.

“After giving birth to my third child, I had a nervous breakdown,” said bipolar patient Donna Israel.

It took a while, but eventually, Israel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Medications helped, but made her so tired that she could not take care of her children.

So she chose “taking care of my children or taking meds — so I would opt to take care of my children and what would happen – I would relapse and go right back in the hospital,” Israel said.

It is a common problem in medicine – a patient failing to adhere to a prescribed drug program.

“As a physician, sometimes I’m not sure whether my patient has taken his or her medicine or not, and I might make an erroneous decision on that basis,” said Dr. John Kane, a psychiatrist at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.

That is what the new digital pill is meant to address. It is called Abilify MyCite, and believe it or not, the small pill has an embedded sensor in it no larger than a grain of sand.

Once the sensor hits the stomach, it emits a faint signal that is picked up by a receiver patch worn on the abdomen. The patch relays the signal to a mobile device indicating exactly when the patient took their medication.

“And then that information is fed back to the patient and to the clinical team, and if the patient wishes, it can also be shared with a family member, or another interested party who can benefit from that information,” Kane said.

There is also an app that keeps track of the information, as well as how the patient is feeling and other clinically important information.

Kane took part in the clinical trials on Abilify MyCite. He said if a patient does not take their meds, “It could lead to a relapse, or a recurrence of symptoms, and sometimes even hospitalization. The more people experience relapses, it can become even more difficult to control the illness.”

And while the cost of the digital drug is not yet known, Kane said preventing even one of the hospitalizations will likely more than make up for the added cost of the sensor drug.

But there are also privacy issues that will have to be worked out, such as who gets access to a patient’s medication history.

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