The US Food and Drug Administration recently authorised the sale of Abilify MyCite – the first ever electronic drug, sold by a Japanese laboratory and which works in conjunction with a connected system devised by a US company. A sensor inside the pill gives off an electrical signal which establishes the time and the date that the drug was taken.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in November that it had authorised the sale of an electronic version of aripiprazole, sold under the name Abilify since 2002 by Japanese laboratory Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. This new formula – called Abilify MyCite – is the first ever connected pill designed to check that the patients are following their treatment and at what time the drug was taken.
Integrated system set off when pill comes into contact with gastric fluids
A sensor placed inside the pill sends information on the time and the date that it was taken to a receiver in the patient’s ribcage, fixed on by a patch. The sensor is made of copper, magnesium and silica and emits electrical signals when it comes into contact with gastric fluids.
Within a few minutes, the data is transmitted to the external receiver, produced by US company Proteus Digital Health who are also responsible for the system that is contained within the drug.
Data can be consulted by patients and doctors
Patients taking Abilify MyCite can consult all of the data relating to their taking of the drug on a smartphone app, provided of course that they regularly replace the patches, which only have a shelf-life of around a week. The patients will not be the only potential recipients of the information collected by the smart pill, however, as they will be able – if they so desire – to authorise their healthcare professional to access the data transmitted by the system.
Doctors will be able to log onto a website and monitor the behaviour of patients who have given their consent. In a press release, the FDA was at pains to point out however that the effectiveness of the system which encourages patients to take their drugs at set times every day had not yet been clinically proven.
Supporting the fight against mental illnesses
Tracking of this kind may be cause for concern at a time when issues of personal data protection are on everyone’s lips, but it could well prove to be an efficient way of keeping patients in good health.
"Tracking the taking of prescribed drugs could be useful for certain people suffering from a mental illness", explained Mitchell Mathis, head of the psychiatric treatment division at the centre for research and evaluation of drugs of the FDA, which ties in with the department’s authorisation of the trackable version of Abilify as part of the treatment of schizophrenia, manic depression and bipolar disorder.
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