DigiPrEP: A Pilot Trial to Evaluate the Feasibility, Acceptability, and Accuracy of a Digital Pill System to Measure PrEP Adherence
A team of scientists from Brigham University (USA) has published the results of a study of digital tablets (DPS), which will help adhere to the daily regimen of pre-exposure HIV (PrEP). According to scientists, for some groups who do not follow medication regimens, a digital pill system can be a great solution. The trials were conducted with men who had sex with men (MSM) who had experience with psychoactive substances. The results of the study indicate the accuracy of 98%.
"Digital pills are not scary. These are new devices used in clinical practice to measure adherence to treatment, ”said study co-author Peter Chai, MD.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is given to people with HIV-negative status who have a high level of infection through sexual contact or injecting drug use. When taken properly, PrEP provides almost 99% protection against HIV. Some people find it very difficult to follow a medication regimen, especially those who suffer from psychoactive substance disorders. In this regard, new technologies that can accurately measure adherence can help people maintain protection from HIV.
The scheme of digital pills is simple. Each dose of PrEP is placed in a gelatin capsule with a radio frequency transmitter - thus creating a digital pill. When a person swallows such a pill, stomach acid dissolves the gel coating and activates a transmitter that sends a radio signal that can be tracked at a distance of no more than a meter.
The researchers tested the digital pill system on 16 cisgender MSMs who have experienced drug use. Participants were given a digital device that works as a scanner in the store - as soon as a person takes a tablet, the device makes a digital recording, which can be sent to a smartphone to health care providers.
To check the accuracy of the reader, the researchers compared the data on the number of unused tablets returned at the end of each month and blood samples in which the concentration of the main component of PrEP was measured. As a result, the accuracy of measuring the tablets was 98%.
The researchers also interviewed participants after the test. Patients generally had a positive opinion of the digital pill system. According to the participants, the system is easy to study and integrate into their daily lives. Many also noted "peace of mind" because the program confirmed that they had taken their pill.
Researchers hope to turn the reader into a bracelet for future use. But they also point out that DPS technology on such a small scale is expensive. However, in the case of mass production, the price can be significantly reduced.
"While this technology is unlikely to be used in cheaper or less effective drugs, it could improve outcomes for expensive life-saving drugs, such as congestive heart failure, hepatitis C or diabetes. In the age of digital healthcare, technologies such as DPS combine doctors with patients much better, ”the researchers concluded.