Doctors hope new digital pill will encourage medication adherence

World Today

Digital pill

Patients failing to take their prescribed medication is a bigger problem than one might think. A 2017 study by US health officials found that 20 percent of new prescriptions are never filled.
A new digital pill could offer a solution, and it’s being tried as a treatment for Hepatitis-C.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Back in 1976, the car Richard Montoya was riding in struck another vehicle head-on. He was rushed to Denver Health Medical Center.

“They brought me over here (Denver Health Medical Center) and had to take part of my liver out,” Montoya said. “Through a blood transfusion, I got Hepatitis C.”

He’s never been able to afford the drugs to treat his Hepatitis C, but recently a Denver clinic made him a proposition to clear his liver on one condition: He had to take a digital pill.

Developed by the company Proteus Digital Health, the capsule includes both a medication and a tiny sensor that when it hits the stomach transmits a signal to a patch worn by the patient. That signal is then beamed to a phone or computer.

“This technology is what they term an ingestible sensor,” said Dr. David Wyles, a physician at Denver Health Medical Center Infectious Disease.  “And then we can look online and see exactly when the patient took their pills.”

An estimated 200 Hepatitis C patients were enrolled in a study of the digital pill this year. Hepatitis C is a disease that, partly due to the injection drug epidemic, has been on the rise in the U.S., but new Hepatitis C drugs have shown real promise in fighting it.”

According to Dr. Wyles, one of the critical components to it working are that patients take their medication and Wyles also believes the digital pill also offers a good solution to rein in the costs of Hepatitis C drugs.

Adherence improves when patients know doctors and nurses are monitoring their regimen.

“If I was late or something like that, they had some guy on the telephone that would call me,” Montoya said. “Kept me honest.”

These pills also measure a patient’s activity and heart rate and could eventually provide other medical information.

And for a person that tries to stay away from pills, Montoya has made an exception for this one. Now his Hepatitis C is gone and energy levels are up.