FDA approves digital pill that tracks patient adherence

However, it raises concerns over privacy

US regulators have approved the first drug with a sensor that alerts doctors when it has been taken, offering a new way of monitoring patient adherence, but also raising privacy concerns.

digital pills

The digital pill combines psychiatric medication Abilify with a tracking system first approved in 2012.

The technology is intended to help prevent emergencies that can occur when patients skip their medication, such as manic episodes experienced by those with bipolar disorder.

But the pill has not yet been shown to actually improve compliance.

Additionally, patients must be willing to allow their doctors and caregivers to access the digital information.

These privacy issues are likely to crop up more often as drug manufacturers and medical device companies combine their products.

The technology could change how doctors relate to their patients as they're able to see whether they are following instructions.

"It's truth serum time," says Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at NYU's Langone Medical Center.

"Is the doctor going to start yelling at me? Am I going to get a big accusatory speech? How will that interaction be handled?"

The technology carries risks for patient privacy too if there are breaches of medical data or unauthorised use as a surveillance tool, says James Giordano, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center. - AP