Digital Pills Can Track Painkiller Use In an Effort to Combat Opioid Addiction

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Opioid addiction is on the rise so in an effort to curb this troubling trend, doctors are turning to digital pills.

The idea is to have prescription opioids comprised of radio transmitters which will be able to track patients’ pill use in real time.

Often, patients are prescribed too many painkillers to begin with, which leads to them either taking more than they should over time or selling them to people who may already be addicted.

Ultimately, by equipping these digital pills with sensors, researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital hope to not only discourage abuse but get a better idea of the right number of pills to prescribe for specific injuries.

When opioids are prescribed to individuals, Peter Chai, a physician and medical toxicologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says, “We’re placing the onus of one of the most dangerous medicines we have into the hands of patients.”

Chai hopes the digital pills will help spot problematic opioid use as soon as the behavior emerges in order to nip it in the bud.

The pills, which are not yet on the market, are made by a Florida-based company called eTectRx. Basically, they are gel capsules containing both the drug and a radio transmitter “about the size of a sesame seed,” says Chai.

Stomach acid from the patient powers the digital pills, dissolving the gel capsules in order to release both the oxycodone tablet and the transmitter.

From here, the transmitter can send data to a patch stuck on the patient’s belly, which is then capable of sending the data to the cloud for doctors and researchers to study.

One can venture to guess how the transmitter then exits a user’s body but lets just say it is very natural.

All in all, these digital pills have the potential to put a real dent in the opioid addiction crisis which is sweeping many communities across the United States.