Most people will probably agree that keeping up with their medications and taking them on time can be quite a challenge. A lot of people often miss taking one or more doses of their medicines and this can sometime lead to unwanted medical complications. Thankfully, however, this will soon be a thing of the past after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the first ever digital pill.
The digital pill (also known as the smart pill system) can be considered as one of the most important breakthroughs in the field of modern medicine and may very well signal the dawn of digital medicine . While it is only currently approved for use with a placebo, its developer, Proteus Digital Health of Redwood City, California, is still hoping to get the FDA's approval for its use with common medications in the near future.
The Digital Pill – How Does It Work?
This revolutionary medical device is basically an ingestible microchip embedded in placebo pills. It is designed in such a way that allows patients to monitor whether they are taking their medications as prescribed by their doctors. The device measures about 1.0 square millimetre or roughly the size of a grain of sand and is made from silicon, magnesium and copper.
As soon as the pill reaches the stomach, the sensor will react with the stomach juices and send an electrical signal to a disposable, battery-operated stick-on patch attached to the patient's rib cage. Among the information that will be relayed to the patch includes the type of medication taken by the patient, the time of ingestion and the patient's physiological data (temperature, respiration, heart rate and activity level) in reaction to the medication.
These data are then transmitted to the patients' smartphone using a special medical mobile app  and are stored in the Proteus website. From there, the patient can choose to share the information with his physician, caregiver and/or family members through text or email.
So, what happens to the sensor after it has fulfilled its role? Since the body has no further use for the microchip, it will automatically deactivate five minutes after it has been ingested and will ultimately be eliminated through the digestive system.
It is expected that with the aid of the digital pill, doctors can have a clearer understanding of how their patients respond to their treatments so that they can adjust their dosage or prescription accordingly.
With the digital pill, there will be no more missed medications – ever.