Digital Pill Approved By FDA

November 14, 2017 07:04 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- This week the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first "digital pill". It would allow doctors to track when patients are taking their medication.

The pill is embedded with a digital tracking system. The tiny sensor gives off a charge when mixed with stomach fluid ... sending a signal to a patch worn by the patient.


The advancement in science is a tough pill for some to swallow.

"What something is used for today is certainly not what it will be used for down the road," says Shawn Tuma, an expert on data protection.

The pill; called Ability MyCite, is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The purpose is to address the long-standing problem of patients with these diagnoses not taking drugs as prescribed.        

It has Tuma hoping to start the discussion about privacy. "It may not gather and collect any information. It may not have any kind of functioning chip or processor” … But according to Tuma, it may be a step toward medicine-monitoring systems that can communicate on a greater level. Ones with a controlling feature. "Those are hackable. So that raises a security issue, and then, of course, we know any time there is something electrical that is giving off a sensor it can be tracked."

"I think it's kind of creepy. Its kind of like the government is watching you kind of thing,” says Molly Thim.

Some are focused on the benefits. "I think it would be a great advancement as far as patient care. It could get the doctors more information on how to treat their patients," says Brian Nye.

Others are on the fence. “If the doctor prescribes it, we really want the patient to continue to take that medication,” says Chelsea Johnson. “But on the other hand, we have to worry about the privacy of our patients. Having that trust relationship is very important."

Finding a balance is what Tuma would like to see. "There's been adequate research on the functionality of the pill. The real question is ‘What are the ethics for using it?’ In our society, we are always balancing security against our privacy and our liberty."



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