The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Abilify MyCite, a form of aripirazole tablets with a sensor. What makes this antipsychotic drug a bold innovation is that the pill tracks and records if the patient took his medicine. Apart from the actual medication, the pill has an ingestible sensor which dissolves in the stomach, and transmits a signal to a patch worn on the patient’s abdomen. The patch forwards information to smartphone apps. Using a virtual platform, the patient can share information with health care providers and doctors.

The tracking pill aims to solve the problem of non-compliance among patients, especially those with mental health issues. According to the IMS Institute, the U.S. healthcare industry lost $100 billion to more than $200 billion in 2012 due to the improper and unnecessary use of medicine. This has led millions of people to be more sick, require additional treatment as well as be hospitalized more frequently.

The new tracking pill, which is primarily used by patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression in adults, is roughly the size of a grain of sand. The sensor was developed by a company called Proteus Digital Health, based in Redwood City, CA. It records not only detects and records the date and time the pill was taken but also transmits the data to patch worn by the patient.

Selected family members and the attending physician can then access and share the information to see if the patient is really taking his medication. This eliminates the worry that the patient may just be pretending to take the pill, but not really swallowing it – thereby rendering treatment futile.

Made for Mental Health Meds

Dr. Mitchell Mathis, director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the FDA supports new technology and wants to work with companies developing them to better understand how such innovations can benefit doctors and patients. In the case of patients with mental illness, he noted that being able to track ingestion of medication could be of help to the caregivers as well.

Abilify MyCite is seen as a potential help to schizophrenia patients, an illness found in 1% of the U.S. population. Symptoms first appear in young adults in their twenties, but the condition is often diagnosed later in life. The symptoms include chronic and severe brain disorder capable of disabling the individual. It’s also characterized by being suspicious, withdrawn from society, hearing voices, hallucinations, delusions, believing that other people can read or control their minds.

Bipolar Disorder, on the other hand, is another brain disease where the individual has unusual swings in mood, energy and activity levels, and the ability to carry out ordinary daily tasks. Also called manic-depression, its symptoms include alternating periods of depression and high or irritable mood, increased restlessness and activity, decreased need for sleep, impulsive behavior, racing thoughts and talking fast.

These two conditions make it difficult for doctors and caregivers to track intake and ingestion of medication. A tracking pill or sensor is seen as something that will make a bold impact in the lives of patients and their families.

Not Generic

Abilify MyCite is the world’s first digital pill. Abilify was FDA approved in 2002 for schizophrenia treatment. It took ten years before the FDA approved the ingestible sensor for sales purposes. Additionally, it is the only FDA-brand approved for internal digital tracking.

There are other companies which are working hard on implement a digital drug system. Tracking a patient’s medications also helps with research controls by tracking volunteers or participants testing experimental drugs.

Abilify MyCite is the first of many cutting-edge treatments that will improve the quality of life of millions of patients – and their families – all over the globe.

 

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