Medications are there to treat us from an ailment, but when not taken as prescribed or misused, they can become ineffective in treating the problem and even make a person resistant to its effects. Non-adherence to any form of prescription medication can aggravate or worsen the existing medical condition. It is more important to follow the treatment regimen in case of mental health problems and addiction-related cases in order to experience positive outcomes, prevent relapse and yield the best results of a drug abuse therapy.
An effective strategy to ensure timely adherence to one’s medication schedule is using appropriate tools or technology. Proteus Digital Health is working on one such product – a high-tech pill with an ingestible sensor, which can improve medication adherence rates for hepatitis C drugs.
The number of hepatitis C infections has nearly tripled in five years in the United States, reaching a 15-year high. Although direct-acting antivirals are more effective in curing the disease in the majority of infections, they are often rendered ineffective due to non-adherence of prescription norms. To check if the designed pill could improve medication adherence rates for hepatitis C drugs, a new clinical study is underway at 16 health centers across the country. One of the chief benefits of the digital pill would be to provide conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of direct-acting antivirals that are otherwise not supported by insurance providers because they are expensive. According to Dr. David Wyles, head of infectious diseases from Denver Health, one of the trial locations, the data gathered from the clinical study may be helpful in convincing insurers to expand access to the effective hepatitis drug, in spite of it being expensive.
The much-awaited pill consists of the prescription medication along with a tiny ingestible sensor (FDA-approved) in a gel capsule. Once inside the body, minerals in the sensor react with the stomach acid to create a tiny electronic signal that is transmitted to a band-aid like patch worn on the torso, which then relays it to a digital app on a smart device like a tablet or a smartphone. The data transmitted can then be shared with a health care provider who can then monitor the amount and frequency of the dose taken. According to Wyles, in case a patient misses a dose, an alert can be set up in the program to send an e-mail to the health care provider who can then contact the patient or intervene the right away. This is nearly impossible with the present setup wherein one may not get to know anything about it until the next visit to the doctor that could be a month later. In the new technology, apart from the patients, others can also gain access to their data.
Though the digital pill may help supervise the frequency and duration of dose, it does raise some questions about patient privacy. Last year, Proteus’ FDA-approved drug-device combination product called Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor) had raised questions about patient trust and misuse of data among some doctors in the mental health community, who argued that the obtained information may be misused by judges and probation officers on the lookout for offenders.
Non-adherence to prescribed medications may lead patients to experience decreased effectiveness of the treatment that can worsen their condition thereby, resulting in more frequent ER visits and hospitalizations. It may also lead to additional burden on the nation’s health care system and economy.
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