First Digital Pill Approved for Biomedical Tracking

- By Abby Ojeda, Staff Writer -


The FDA has approved the first digital drug that can be identified and tracked by anyone, even after intake. On Nov. 13, 2017, the FDA named Abilify MyCite to be the first “digital ingestion tracking system” available for prescription. While this form of Abilify can potentially help the treatment of those with schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, depression, dementia, and more, some have met this new biomedical idea with distrust.


This tracking system consists of the Abilify pill and an IEM (Ingestible Event Marker) sensor, a patch, and a smartphone app. The IEM sensor, according to Abilify’s manufacturer, Otsuka, “is the size of a grain of sand, and is made up of ingredients found in food.” As soon as the pill comes in contact with stomach fluid, says Otsuka, the MyCite patch “detects and records the date and time of the ingestion of the tablet as well as certain physiological data such as activity level.” This data is then transferred directly to the app on any device with the app login information.


According to the New York Times, the FDA’s decision shows the increased use of digital devices to “address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed.” In fact, the New York Times continues, about $100 billion dollars a year goes to medical bills for issues patients could have prevented if they had taken their medicine regularly.


However, according to the New York Times, there is currently no evidence that Abilify MyCite would be a viable solution. Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department, said, “Many of those patients [who take Abilify] don’t take meds because they don’t like side effects, or don’t think they have an illness, or because they become paranoid about the doctor or the doctor’s intentions.”


Bethany Helm, a junior studying Family and Consumer Sciences, said, “[Abilify MyCite] could easily transform into something patients are coerced to do. If it can remain purely 100% optional then sure, it sounds like a good idea. I still would like to know what dangers are associated with it.”


Logan Joyner, a junior and nutrition major, said, “While the traceable pill has good intentions and would allow more medicine to be administered effectively, this information could be easily abused if it entered the wrong hands. While the technology is impressive, the potential misuse outweighs the positive applications.” [sic]

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