The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved a psychiatric medication in pill form with a built-in digital tracking device and it’s already proving to be a controversial topic.

The pill will be a large step forward in digital medicine but it is raising an even larger question of privacy, convenience, and cost.

Abilify MyCite is a groundbreaking product utilizing application software and embedded sensors to mainly treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. The pill is the brand version of aripiprazole, the antipsychotic drug. Abilify was approved to treat schizophrenia in 2002 but the sensor technology had not yet been incorporated. The sensor will now record the time of when the medication was taken with the goal of improving patients’ attentiveness of their medication schedule. The success of that objective has not yet been proved.

When it comes to the tracking of the consumer, studies have shown that teens and young adults under prescribed antidepressants experience an increased risk of suicidal behavior. Box labels generally suggest the monitoring of the user. The digital medicine will allow just that.

According to Otsuka, the sensor itself is the size of a grain of sand and made up from ingredients found in food. The sensor stays dormant until it comes in contact with fluids found within the stomach. At that time, the information is dispatched to the MyCite Patch the patient is wearing. The sensor is safely digested and eliminated naturally. The MyCite Patch then sends information to the MyCite app which shares mood information along with the details of when the pill was consumed.

Andrew Thompson, the president and chief executive officer of Proteus, is excited about the medical development. “With this FDA approval, Otsuka can help enable individuals with serious mental illness to engage with their care team about their treatment plan in a new way,” he explained.

The continuous adoption of innovative technology is universal, and while people may be concerned about ingesting a sensor, Dr. Michael Birnbaum believes this advancement will be critical to improving health.

“Technology will revolutionize behavioral healthcare and this advancement is simply the beginning of the digital transformation,” said Birnbaum.

According to spokeswoman Kimberly Whitefield, Otsuka will launch a limited amount of the product and make improvements based on patient feedback. The price has yet to be determined but plans to be set by the time of rollout in 2018.

It should be taken into consideration that the Abilify MyCite system will not be effective in the case of patients not fully complying entirely. If the patch is not worn or the application software is not activated on a smartphone, that will cause a possible lapse in effectiveness.

An estimated 6.7 percent of adult Americans have experienced a depressive episode within the past year. The lifetime predominance of bipolar disorder is nearing 4 percent with schizophrenia at almost one percent.

Abilify is not advised for children as the safety and effectiveness has not yet been approved. The medicine has also not received approval to assist elderly patients suffering from dementia-related psychosis.

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