Medication Compliance Monitored by an FDA Approved Drug
Medication compliance for people taking psychiatric drugs is notoriously hit and miss. Because of that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a form of aripiprazole (Abilify) that digitally tracks medication compliance in patients with schizophrenia, some forms of bipolar, and some cases of depression according to Psychiatric Times.1 A digital sensor in the pill tracks when the medication is ingested by sending a digital tracking signal to an arm patch. Information can be provided to patients and might be shared with families and providers. While this may be the first such drug approved by the FDA, it will not be the last. So, the question for mentally ill patients and their families is this: Is this a wonderful, new medication compliance tool, or is it a potentially dangerous invasion of privacy?
Digital Tracking of Medication Compliance and Paranoia
Psychiatric Times, in partnership with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), surveyed over 400 people with schizophrenia to determine how they used and felt about digital technology. The question was whether or not the use of technology increased paranoia or delusions. Additionally, they reviewed all the published literature on technology tracking use via smartphones or other apps.
They found that patients were overwhelmingly open to these new tools and that the tools did not induce paranoia or delusions. In fact, researchers could not find a single incidence of harm caused by the monitoring.
Digital Tracking of Medication Compliance for a Mentally Ill Child
As the mother of a daughter with bipolar disorder, I am in a quandary as to how this technology might fit into my child’s life.
My daughter is a young adult, yet I still monitor her medications. We’ve repeatedly tried to pass the task of medication compliance to our child, but it has always proved disastrous. While, in the past, she purposely refused her meds, today her noncompliance is based on forgetfulness. Because of that, an arm patch that would tell her she’d missed a pill might be a real help.
While I can serve as my daughter’s reminder and back up plan now, she will one day be living on her own, and who will remind her then? A digital device that automatically calls me would certainly give me some peace of mind. And, since psychiatric medication noncompliance has landed my daughter in the hospital on a number of occasions, any system that helps her remember to take her medications might be a godsend.
Medication Compliance and Digital Tracking vs. Personal Privacy
Yet, even Psychiatric Times, with their glowing reviews of the benefits of digital tracking of medication compliance, admits that there is cause for concern. Digital tracking not only keeps track of medication use but may also keep other personal health information or even real-time location tracking. And with massive security breaches being a regular event in this day and age, how do we protect our private information from getting into the wrong hands?
Additionally, would insurance companies use non-compliance information to limit benefits or increase rates?
Knowing my insurance company, it will be quite a while before digitally tracking aripiprazole will be an option to help my daughter with medication compliance. But, one day, the decision will need to be made. Until that time, I plan to keep up with the research and monitor both the pros and cons of this new tool. Is it a miracle? Is it a menace? I just don’t know.
1 Touros, J., M.D., & Keshavan, M., M.D. (2017, November 22). Digitally Tracking Patients With Schizophrenia: The Future Is Here. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
Traugh, S. (2017, December 11). Medication Compliance Monitored by an FDA Approved Drug, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2017/12/fda-approves-digital-tracking-drug-for-mentally-ill