Monday October 26, 2015

'Digital sensor drug' shares health data, prompts ethical concerns

The first FDA application for a drug with a sensor is raising concerns because there are many privacy and regulatory questions that need to be addressed.

The first FDA application for a drug with a sensor is raising concerns because there are many privacy and regulatory questions that need to be addressed. (Proteus Digital Health)

"Songs, Books, Drugs.  These are fantastic 20th Century libraries, that are going to reveal their digital potential in the 21st century." - Andrew Thompson of Proteus Digital Health on how their 'digital drug' will transform health care

When it comes to medical technology.... nothing, it would seem, could be simpler than the pill. Just open up, and swallow.  But pills could be getting a lot smarter, soon.

Last month, two pharmaceutical companies announced they were joining forces to market the world's first so-called "digital drug." 

Proteus Digital Health makes the ingestible sensor.  It communicates with your smartphone, collecting data each time you take your medication, and that data is sent on to your doctor or to your family. 

Digital Drugs

A drug that sends your health data to your smartphone and your doctor. Medical revolution or invasion of privacy? (opensource.com, flickr cc)

So far, a version of the psychiatric medication Abilify, equipped with the sensor microchip, is in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. But the company behind it says they hope to get this technology into each and every pill in your medicine cabinet... promising that it will revolutionize health care. 

Michael Teehan is the former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Deputy Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University. 

​Anytime we upload personal information into the so-called cloud, we invariably raise new questions about privacy and ethics. 

And when it comes to information about our health, and health care, the picture gets especially cloudy. 

Ann Heesters is the Associate Director of Bioethics at Toronto's University Health Network.  


What are your thoughts on "digital drugs." Is it a technology you'd welcome... or spit out?

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​This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli.