New ‘Smart’ Drugs Tell Doctor You’re Not Taking Them

A best-selling antipsychotic drug soon could get so smart, patients can’t lie about taking it.

The company that makes Abilify, a popular medication used to treat conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to insert the pills with a chip alerting doctors if a patient fails to ingest it at the right times.

If approved, Abilify would become the first digital drug with an ingestible sensor, opening the door to a new world of “smart” medications that could dramatically improve medical adherence, especially for those who might have difficulty following a doctor’s directives.

“I think you’re starting to see these drug products used in more innovative ways,” said Wanda Moebius, vice president for public affairs at the Advanced Medical Technology Association. “We’re definitely — is it fair to say — on the brink of a new area.”

Doctors have prescribed Abilify, one of the top-selling drugs in the U.S., for more than a decade. Now its maker, pharmaceutical giant Otsuka, is partnering with the company that makes the sensor, Proteus Digital Health. The two companies applied to the FDA last month for approval under a new “digital drug” category the agency recently created for such types of new medications.