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Dr. Robert Klitzman: "Smart" Pills are Here and We Need to Consider the Risks

Pharmaceutical companies recently released digital "smart" pills containing computer chips. The first digital cancer pill, which was released in January, contains a chip in capsules filled with capecitabine, a cancer chemotherapy that patients need to take several times a day.

Dr. Robert Klitzman, Academic Director of the Master of Science in Bioethics program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, explained that when the chip hits the stomach, it emits a signal that a skin patch detects. The effect then triggers a message to a computer which allows doctors, patients, and families to track medication adherence.

These pills can provide important benefits to the overwhelming number of people who have trouble taking their medications as they should. Half of medications for chronic disease aren't taken as directed while about one-third of patients don't even fill their prescriptions.

Because this is such a widespread problem, the Food and Drug Administration began approving digital pills. But with this new technology comes new dangers. Such devices, like all computers, can be hacked or go awry. As these medical technologies become increasingly widespread, manufacturers and health care providers will need to figure out how to maximize the benefits to patients and minimize the risks.

Read the full story at CNN and learn more about the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.