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The Food and Drug Administration approved a new pill Tuesday that tracks whether a person has taken their medication or not. The kicker? The pill even has the ability to report its findings back to the patients or doctor.
The goal is to help people remember to take their pills; something that many have trouble with. But, the company that makes the pill, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., is experiencing some backlash from critics who are suspicious because the drug it is combined with treats mental illness.
“The product is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder, and for use as an add-on treatment for depression in adults,” the FDA said in a statement.
Known as the first ever digital medicine system, it is called “Abilify Mycite”.
Once the pill reacts with a patients’ stomach acid, it creates an electric signal. The signal is used to send data to doctors and medical professionals through a smartphone app or Bluetooth.
A prescription for the pill requires patients to sign a consent form allowing their data to be shared with their doctors as well as up to four selected friends and family members, NBC News reports. Users also need to wear a patch on their left rib cage that would also be able to transmit information to a smartphone device.
The company says the sensor is the size of a grain of sand and “is made up of ingredients found in food”.
The New York Times notes, however, that patients can block data recipients whenever they choose to, which could cause problems down the road.
People report skipping medications because their prescriptions are expensive. Doctors, on the other hand, think patients stop taking their pills because their conditions don’t cause clear symptoms, such as high blood pressure.
A 2013 study from the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that people not taking all of their pills properly costed the United States around $100 billion and $289 billion a year, and leads to 125,000 deaths annually.