More Than One Smart Pill Making the News

NOVEMBER 27, 2017
While recently I wrote about the newly-approved Abilify MYCITE pill from a partnership between Otsuka and Proteus Digital Health, there is another smart pill making the rounds. eTectRx (previously eTect Bio) is a startup investing in a smart 'pill' to help guide and monitor patients adherence to medications.1
 
While the premise may sound familiar to Proteus Digital Health, the technology used and how it is carried out is quite different and worth detailing. Whereas the Proteus product is based on a sensor embedded in a tablet that when digested will send a signal to a patch worn on the patient's abdomen, eTect uses a capsule with a built-in sensor that when ingested will send a signal.

While Proteus platform is based on the patient wearing a patch (that lasts about a week), eTect's platform has the patient wear a device around their neck that hangs down to the abdomen to detect when a signal is pinged back after the patient takes their medication.

The pros and cons between both are that the eTect's sensor detector won't cause a rash (which was an issue with Proteus), but the wearable sensor from Proteus also allows certain vitals and other data to be collected that may be useful. The other problem is that patients may take off the device and won't detect when someone takes the medication if they forget to wear it.
 
What brings eTect into the news is that it has recently been used in a study out of the Brigham and Women's Hospital to monitor use of opioids post-discharge from the emergency room.2  The study was conducted in 15 patients (26 screened) who had recent pain due to a fracture, to determine their use of opioids for pain management. Interestingly, the study found that patients used their opioids on average only 3 days, and at different variable rates through the day. The research is useful, as it can help identify how much pain management patients need in such situations, especially given the issue of the opioid epidemic currently ongoing in the US. This research and future studies could help pave the way to objectively assess what amount of pain medications should be dispensed, and possibly help patients self-titrate as needed.
 
That being the case, the eTectRx product is focused more or less on clinical trials. The issue facing its use for a broad market of being integrated into actual medications is that it requires someone to put an active medication inside the capsule, whereas Proteus is directly implanting the sensor into the drug itself. Nonetheless, this is again another exciting piece of technology entering a soon-to-be competitive field of tracking medication adherence quite differently than we've been able to in the past.

References
  1. eTectRx. Accessed from http://etectrx.com/
  2. MobiHealthNews. In small Brigham and Women's pilot, eTectRx's digital pills track opioid adherence. November 21, 2017. Accessed from http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/small-brigham-and-womens-pilot-etectrxs-digital-pills-track-opioid-adherence.


Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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