Medication adherence can be a huge issue for doctors and patients. Once a doctor prescribes a medication, how does he or she know if the patient has actually taken it? Or even if the right patient has taken it? Right now, it’s impossible to access this kind of information. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) just awarded a $1 million contract to eTect Inc. for the further development of a product called ID-Cap that could solve this problem.
The ID-Cap is a medicine capsule with an embedded ingestible wireless sensor. When a patient takes their medicine in an ID-Cap, the capsule actually emits a wireless signal from inside the patient to announce digestion. Now that eTect has reached Phase II of clinical trials, which start later this month, they’ll also be testing physiological markers that will ensure that the right patients are taking their medications.
“ID-Cap will really make a difference for doctors,” Eric Buffkin, eTect Chief Operating Officer, said. “This information will be powerful, especially the shift toward accountability.”
Buffkin also noted that many patients are prescribed medications for things like elevated blood pressure, but they stop taking the medication because it makes them feel sick, or they forget to take it every day. ID-Cap would solve this problem.
“Having adherence information when you’re examining a patient will be key,” he said. “Not refill information, but information about whether or not they actually took the last medication they were given.”
ID-Cap also offers economic benefits, which is why Buffkin sees eTect’s largest market as high-price medications. Some medications for Hepatitis C have been shown to be highly effective, but the pills can cost upwards of $1,000 per dose. “A course of this new drug might be $100,000 total, but it offsets a huge cost down the road,” Buffkin said. “The problem is, when you’re on Medicaid, how do you justify a $100,000 check for someone who might not take the drug? From an economic standpoint, ID-Cap will be helpful.”
eTect worked on the ID-Cap under a six month contract last year, demonstrating that it really did measure medication adherence in a helpful way. Phase II of the trials will involve working with 40 marijuana dependent subjects, adding biometric ID capabilities to the current ID-Cap reader and working on a secure software platform that will meet government security requirements. Dr. Aimee McRae of the Medical University of South Carolina will be the lead researcher for Phase II.
Dr. Chris Carnes, Chief Information Officer at eTect, commented on his company’s partnership with NIDA in a recent press release. “NIDA has been an instrumental partner in developing the ID-Cap technology and our continued association with them greatly enhances our ability to improve medication compliance in clinical research,” he said. “Phase II of the program will allow us to refine the ID-Cap system and expand upon the secure data communication channel.” Dr. Carnes is also the principle investigator on the ID-Cap project.
Although ID-Cap has been in the works since 2012, it’s still not available for prescription use and is targeted for release, pending successful clinical trials, in 2015.
“We’re a platform for measuring how people are behaving around their medications,” Buffkin said. “We’re never going to make people take a pill – that’s a human event and it’s your choice. But we’re the measuring stick.”
Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.
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