Otsuka's dose-tracking digital pill charts its first course to market with Magellan

Get ready for the first "smart pill" to make its way to medicine cabinets. Otsuka's Abilify MyCite, the only FDA-approved digital pill, just took another step toward patients thanks to a deal with Magellan Health to distribute the med through its network of mental health providers.

Approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the electronic version of Abilify is designed to help patients take their meds as directed—and, if they choose, to enlist other people in the effort.

Abilify MyCite records the date and time a patient takes a pill and relays that information, along with activity level, to a personal smartphone app where patients can add information about their mood, sleep and other health stats. If the patient allows, the dosing info also goes to their healthcare providers and caregivers.

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“We are confident that being able to track drug ingestion in patients with serious mental illness will provide compelling insights for patients and their healthcare provider teams,” said Kabir Nath, president and CEO, Otsuka North America Pharmaceutical Business, in a news release.

While that may be true, the new digital pill has also faced some backlash from critics concerned about the potential for “Big Brother”-type tracking. Some worry the technology could be used to spy on people or coerce them into drug therapy.

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This first wave of use at Magellan is expected to give Otsuka and Magellan real-world data and evidence to show how well Abilify MyCite actually helps improve adherence. The collaboration also will deliver experience for physicians and patients on its day-to-day use.

While the initial rollout is purposefully small, Otsuka said it looks forward to collaborating with more payer groups going forward.

David B. Nash, chair of the Digital Medicine National Steering Board, said, in the release, “This is an exciting time, from a Population Health perspective, as we gather insights into factors that influence adherence to treatment and consider the related clinical and economic implications.”