If you take medicine regularly it can be tricky to remember to take it at the correct time. A staggering 50% of people don’t take medicine as prescribed, which can be dangerous in the case of mental illness and can lead to extra treatment, which costs money.

A US company has developed an ingestible sensor that connects to your smartphone informing medical professionals the pill has been taken.

In July Proteus Digital Health won approval from the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) for the Proteus Ingestible Sensor. The sensor is the size of a grain of sand and small enough to be included in a special Sensor-Enabled Pill. The sensor is edible and made from ‘elements that are found in a normal diet.’

Proteus Digital Health patch

When the pill reaches the stomach it sends a signal to a special patch worn on the patient’s body. This patch includes a sensor that detects when the pill was taken.

This information (along with details of heart rate, steps, blood pressure and rest) is sent via Bluetooth to a phone and tablet equipped with the Discover app.

The app allows patients to track when they take their medicine and (with consent) share that information with their doctor. Using a web portal doctors can to tell whether the patient has taken the tablet and analyse their progress.

Portal Proteus Digital Health

Proteus categorises this product as a Digital Medicine, stating on its website: “The goal of Digital Medicines is to empower patients and their families, enable physicians and health systems to more effectively manage risk and ensure that outcomes are reliably achieved.”

Proteus worked with Otsuka Pharmaceutical to develop the first pill to include the Proteus Ingestible Sensor, which is currently being reviewed for use by the FDA.

Called ‘ABILFY’ it includes aripiprazole, which is used to treat serious depression including manic depression and schizophrenia, illnesses where forgetting to take a tablet can hinder treatment.

William H. Carson, president and CEO of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization, believes Digital Medicine could be revolutionary for patients: “Today, patients suffering from severe mental illnesses struggle with adhering to or communicating with their healthcare teams about their medication regimen, which can greatly impact outcomes and disease progression,” he said.

If the FDA approves ABILFY doctors will be able to prescribe the sensor-equipped tablet to mentally-ill patients.

What do you think about taking a pill equipped with a sensor that communicates with your phone? Let us know in the Comments section below.