FDA Approves Use of Trackable Pill

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. built-in / ˈbɪltˌɪn / (adj) – included as part of something

    The smartphone has a built-in camera.

  2. ingestible / in-ˈjes-tə-bəl / (adj) – capable of being eaten or swallowed

    Scientists recently invented ingestible sensors.

  3. unprecedented / ʌnˈprɛs ɪˌdɛn tɪd / (adj) – never happened or existed in the past

    The number of tourists this year is unprecedented.

  4. wary / ˈwɛər i / (adj) – cautious or suspicious about something

    My mother is wary about drinking herbal medicine.

  5. excrete / ɪkˈskrit / (v) – to eliminate something (i.e. waste) from the body

    The body can excrete waste through urination.


Read the text below.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized the use of a pill that has a built-in tracking device.

Abilify MyCite is the first medicine to be integrated with an ingestible event marker (IEM) device that can ensure patients’ on-time medicine intake. This unprecedented digital pill is the result of a joint research project between the Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka and the medicine company Proteus Digital Health.

The digital pill comes with a patch worn on the patient’s left rib cage. The patch can track the IEM through its tiny sensor made of copper, magnesium, and silicon, elements that are commonly found in food. Once the pill is ingested, the sensor sends a signal to the patch connected to a smartphone app. The app then receives the date and time of medicine intake, as well as the dosage.

In an article from CNN, one doctor commented that some people may feel wary about ingesting the IEM. However, the FDA’s findings show that the device does not cause any significant injuries inside the body and that it can be reliably excreted.

The FDA strongly believes that this medical breakthrough can help some patients. In a statement, the FDA said it will continue working with companies like Otsuka and Proteus to gain further understanding of digital medicine.

Currently, Abilify MyCite is used to treat depression and other mental illnesses among adults. However, the approval of this digital pill has also opened the possibility of integrating IEM to medicines used for other illnesses.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What kind of patients do you think will benefit the most from a digital pill? Explain.
• Would you be willing to take a digital pill for an illness? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Should the effectiveness of medicine continuously be studied even after making it available to the public? Why or why not?
• How can medical researchers ease the minds of patients who are wary of new medicines?