Gov’t Approves First-Ever Med With Digital Tracking System

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Most people could use a little reminder every now and then that is time to take their medicine, but what if that reminder actually comes in the form of a pill.

It’s called digital ingestion tracking, and it’s a new way to find out if medication has been taken and when.

Dr. Patton Nickell, of Allegheny Health Network, explains it is all related to a microchip.

A little microchip inside the pill is activated by the stomach acid, and it emits a very weak signal that is picked up by a patch that the patient wears on his or her abdomen. The patch receives it and send the information to a smartphone nearby.

A sensor, that can be ingested, has been approved by the FDA for use in patients with mental disorders, who require medication monitoring. But there is some disagreement in the medical community about who should use it.

“The person has to be willing to participate because you have to take the pill, wear the patch and have your phone on, and also allow someone else to have access to your data,” said Dr. Nickell.

The actual micro-chip is about the size of a grain of sand, and will essentially dissolve every day. That means the patient will be ingesting a microchip every day. But are there alternatives?

“An easier way to see if you take your pill is to use a pill box. If the pill is there, you you didn’t take it. If it isn’t there, you probably took it,” Dr. Nickell said.

So far, there is no estimate on the cost of a digital pill or whether most insurances will cover it. Although initially approved for disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the digital pill could address a broader issue.

“It’s hard for us to do the things every day that we’re supposed to do,” says Dr. Nickell. “The problem is poor medication adherence and people estimate it costs up to $200 billion a year either direct or indirect from people not taking their meds as directed.”

Right now, it’s not clear when the digital pill might be available to the general public.

More from Lynne Hayes-Freeland
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