The world’s first digital pill looks a lot like any other medicine. At least on the outside.
That’s because the hi-tech part is on the inside: a digital, ingestible sensor developed by medical device company Proteus.
The sensor is about the size of a grain of sand and can be baked into most any tablet. This year, it will be dispensed inside of a special version of Abilify, a mental health medication, to make the first FDA-approved prescription medication digital pill.
So, what exactly does a digital pill do?
"The majority of people actually aren’t getting benefits from the medicines they take. So what digital medicines are about is adding information... about how we take our medicines and communicate to the patient and their caregivers about their health care."
"When swallowed, that tiny sensor actually becomes activated in the stomach and starts to emit a signal," Proteus Chief Platform Officer David O'Reilly told Circa. "We can detect that with a second sensor, which is like a wearable band-aid, which itself is a sensor that is listening for... things like my heart rate, my heartbeat variability, physical activity, so that I can start to link together how and when I took my medicines with how my body is responding."
Data like the time medications were taken and how vitals looked before and after appear on the patient’s smartphone and in the cloud, where health care professionals and family members can log on to view with approval from the patient.
In 2016, Proteus released the first version of the digital pill, called Proteus Discover, that doesn’t itself have medicine in it but instead is coupled with medicine by being placed inside of prescription capsules. That tablet is manufactured in the company’s California facility.
The first all-in-one digital prescription pill containing Proteus’s sensor, called Abilify MyCite, is being manufactured in partnership with Otsuka. Proteus chose to collaborate on mental health prescription medication first for a reason, O’Reilly said.
Mental health patients who are suffering from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder are always at risk of not being able to consistently take medicines. So they are the first ones to ask for help with how they take their medications… and how they can connect to the people they love and the people who are taking care of them."
Healthcare professionals today couple Proteus Discover with all types of medications from those for hypertension to hepatitis, so Proteus said that, besides the new Abilify coming in 2018, more prescription medication digital pills with its technology built in could be coming soon.