In the last few days, Otsuka announced it has entered into a collaboration with Magellan Health to distribute its Abilify MyCite digital pill—a unique antipsychotic that has a Proteus Digital Health sensor embedded in the tablet. The drug-device was initially approved by the FDA in November 2017, facing criticism over the potential consequences of ingestible sensors and its $1,650-a-month price tag.

However, Otsuka hopes the new collaboration will provide a chance to collect additional real-world data before wider release in the US; Magellan is ideally placed to help gather this data, as a US-managed healthcare company with a strong focus on mental health. Ultimately, the goal is to ease concerns with the drug-device, which will lead to more partnerships with payer groups going forward.

The MyCite pill is a first in not only neurology, but all of healthcare: a sensor is placed inside the tablet and linked to a smart patch in order to monitor dosing and adherence to medication, as well as other health metrics, when the tablet has been ingested. This information can then be synced and downloaded to a Bluetooth-enabled device.

A new solution for the schizophrenia market?

According to the GlobalData PharmaPoint: Schizophrenia report, adherence is one of the largest unmet needs in the schizophrenia market, and a physician being able to see exactly when a patient has or has not taken their pills would go a long way to addressing this.

However, the main issues that stakeholders have raised with the digital pill revolve around the use of such technology in patient care, with some raising the point that patients with schizophrenia often have paranoia with thoughts of being tracked or followed, and giving them a tablet with a sensor in it may spark a decline in their mental state.

To combat this, a small initial rollout is expected under the Otsuka-Magellan collaboration, which will aim to collect real-world data on adherence; if the MyCite pill can show a marked improvement, other payers might be convinced to include it in reimbursement lists moving forward.

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We are likely to see more digital therapies enter the market, as pharmaceutical companies increasingly look to technology to help address unmet clinical needs in the market. While there will still be opposition to the adoption of technology in healthcare, the Otsuka-Magellan collaboration could act as a template for other pharmaceutical companies looking to launch these novel treatments.