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US regulators have approved the world’s first digital medicine — a pill with an inbuilt sensor — opening up a new front in pharmaceuticals and the “internet of things”.
The tablet can be tracked inside the stomach, relaying data on whether, and when, patients have taken vital medication. The US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for it to be used in an antipsychotic medication with the aim that the data can be used to help doctors and patients better manage treatment.
Poor compliance with drug regimes, particularly among sufferers of chronic diseases, is a pervasive problem for pharma companies and health systems, leading to lower consumption of the industry’s products and higher costs for payers when patients’ conditions deteriorate as a result of missing treatment.
The technology, developed over 10 years by Silicon Valley-based Proteus Digital Health, will be incorporated into an existing anti-psychotic drug, Abilify, made by Japanese drugmaker Otsuka. The medication has been taken by about 7m people in the US since its launch 15 years ago.
Andrew Thompson, Proteus chief executive, said the technology would allow people with serious mental illness “to engage with their care team about their treatment plan in a new way”. Patients will be able to use a mobile phone to track and manage their medication.
He is already in talks with other major pharma companies about using the technology in treatments for various chronic conditions.
When patients swallow the tablet containing the sensor, a signal is sent to a patch worn on their bodies, which in turn connects to an app on their phones, showing that they have taken their dose. The doctor who has prescribed the…