Earlier this month, the FDA approved the use of digital medicine in the manufacture of Abilify (generic name aripiprazole), a pill that is prescribed to patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
The “digital pill” as some reports call it, contains a small digestible sensor that transmits signals to an electronic patch that the patient is wearing.
This new venture in medical tech was through the research efforts of Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (creators of Abilify) and US-based Proteus Digital Health, developers of the Proteus patch used by patients today. As a patient swallows his pill and it reaches the stomach, the sensor is activated, signalling the patch that the medicine has already been taken.
The Proteus patch is worn by patients to gather data about heart rate, temperature, and other stats, which are electronically transmitted to a computer for viewing of the patient or doctor. Proteus has implemented the use of their patch with the help of health care professionals who want to ensure that their patients are well cared for.
The application of the digital medicine into Abilify further supports the need for doctors to closely monitor patients with mental illnesses, especially those who are prone to forgetting the right time and dosage of meds. Ultimately, this can prevent severe complications, save billions in dollars in follow-up health care, and even save countless lives.
Proteus and Otsuka are currently working on further developing the technology, and enhancing the interface by which both doctors and patients can safely and securely view their medical data through smart phone apps or computer software.