Doctors now have an easier — but controversial — way to know if their patients have taken their medication.
For the first time, self-tracking sensors can now be added to Abilify oral tablets, an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and Tourette’s, according to a Food and Drug Administration press release.
After the pill, called Abilify MyCite, is ingested, the microchip activates when it hits the stomach fluid. Then, before it disintegrates, it sends a signal to a patch the patient wears on their abdomen, which sends a signal to an app that patients or doctors can track.
The sensor is made of copper, magnesium and silicon and creates an electric signal when it hits the stomach. It takes the tracker about 5 minutes to dissolve and 30 minutes to two hours to send the signal. Patients can sign up to have a doctor and up to four people receive alerts.
The developers behind the tech, created by Proteus Digital Health, hope to inspire patients to take their medications more consistently. Doctors having knowledge of the frequency and use of a patient’s medication can help with understanding why a prescription is working or not and ensuring proper dosages are set.
While the technology may seem useful, many are concerned it will lead to a slippery slope of ethical and privacy issues, including law enforcement and insurance agencies monitoring drug usage and adding legal reprimands or additional copays for missed pills, according to The Verge.
There is no word yet on how much Abilify MyCite will cost, but it is set to roll out sometime next year.
The FDA approved usage of sensors in oral medication back in 2012, and some capsules have added sensors, but Abilify is the first where the sensor has been embedded directly in the pill.