If someone is taking medication for something as important as preventing HIV, it goes without saying that they shouldn't be lackadaisical about doing so. A new electronically-augmented swallowable capsule is designed to help, by letting patients and physicians know if doses are missed.
The capsule is part of the ID-Cap system, developed by Florida-based company etectRx. That system consists of the gelatine ID-Capsule, the electronic ID-Tag which sits curled up inside the capsule, and the externally-worn ID-Cap Reader device.
The ID-Capsule is filled with medication and gets swallowed, just like any other pharmaceutical capsule. Once it dissolves within the digestive tract, both the medication and the ID-Tag are released. Powered by a chemical reaction with the stomach fluids, the tag proceeds to emit a low-power radio signal. That signal is picked up by the Reader, which is worn against the chest on a lanyard.
Equipped with a Bluetooth module, the Reader then wirelessly notifies an app on the user's smartphone, confirming that the capsule has been swallowed. That app is connected to the internet, allowing both patients and their doctors to track "patient ingestion events" on an online dashboard in real time. If doses are missed, that dashboard will tell them.
The Reader gets wirelessly recharged between uses, and can easily be taken off as needed. And should you be wondering, the single-use ID-Tags simply get passed with the feces.
ID-Cap is currently awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval, which may occur later this year. In the meantime, it will be the subject of a 90-day study being conducted in partnership with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health. Participants will be using the system to monitor their ingestion of the daily-dose HIV-prevention drug Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).
According to etectRX, "The purpose of the study is to examine medication adherence patterns and understand how adherence can be increased among populations at risk for HIV infection."
And as a side note, Proteus Digital Health already offers a similar system in which an ingestible chip gets embedded in pills, and transmits a signal to a patch worn on the skin.
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