FDA approves Abilify MyCite, a digital pill with a sensor that tracks doses

The FDA has announced a new approval that marks a first for the agency: Abilify MyCite. This medication is described as a 'digital pill,' one that features both the medicine and an embedded sensor. Thanks to that sensor, patients and, more importantly, their doctors, are able to track when the medication has been taken. The pill works with a related wearable, but some worry about the privacy implications.

Ablify MyCite is a version of aripiprazole tablets that have a sensor inside. This sensor is obviously ingested when the patient takes their medication; it provides data to a related patch the patient wears while taking the meds. This patch then shuttles the data to a related mobile app where the patient can see whether they've already taken their meds for the day. That info can also be shared with a doctor or caregiver.

Aripiprazole tablets are prescribed for serious mental conditions, such as schizophrenia and mania. Patients with such conditions may have trouble remembering whether they've taken their medication; as well, there's a risk that the patient will stop taking the meds, so enabling their doctor to remotely monitor their intake can help ensure someone doesn't relapse on medication they need.

Digital pills aren't a new idea and we've seen prototype versions from various research institutions in the past. Abilify MyCite is the first pill of its kind to get FDA approval, though, paving the way for a new kind of drug that may aid in patient compliance. The FDA does warn that the digital sensor may not always register a dose, though, and for that reason it shouldn't be used in emergency situations.

Talking about this, the FDA's Director of the Division of Psychiatry Products Dr. Mitchell Mathis said:

Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients. The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.