The fight against HIV has been amplified by the new and effective prevention drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV PrEP has the ability to reduce HIV infection by 92 percent.
Despite the huge success rate, the drug still remains inaccessible to most people. Another serious issue affecting the efficiency of PrEP is making sure that people take the pill as required. This is a huge problem especially among young people.
Scientists have come up with a new “smart PrEP” pill that will help address this issue. The smart pill has the ability to tell in real-time when and whether a person has taken their PrEP pill each day.
The smart pill was introduced by Proteus Digital Health based in California and is currently being studied by Cook County Health and Hospitals System researchers.
The goal of the smart pill is to increase adherence to dosage. The smart pill will make it easier for young people to keep track of their PrEP daily dosage and consequently, reduce their risk of getting HIV significantly.
Taking the daily pill as required is very crucial in the efficiency of PrEP. The more a patient adheres to the dosage, the higher the chances the drug will be effective. Medical experts recommend taking at least 4 pills per week.
The scientists say that the younger the person the lower the rate of adherence hence the higher the chances of getting infected. The new smart pill is therefore, hoped to be a breakthrough in dealing with low rates of PrEP adherence among young people.
How The Smart PrEP Works
The scientists have added a sensor tablet on Truvada, the PrEP pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Once the patient swallows the pill, the sensor sends an electrical signal once it comes in contact with gastric fluid in the stomach.
The signal is sent to both the patient and their doctors in real time indicating that the pill has been taken. Tracking how the patients are taking PrEP allows doctors and health care providers the chance to reach out to patients missing their doses as directed.
They also get to learn of any issues that may be preventing the patients from taking their pills such as side effects. This way, they can help them tackle the side effects without having to stop taking their medication.
Reasons for Low Adherence
The PrEP pill should be taken once a day however, very many patients especially below the age of 24 skip taking the daily pill.
There are a number of reasons why patients skip their dosage including a busy schedule and forgetting about it.
Another common reason is that because PrEP is taken before the patient contracts HIV they feel the need to forget that they are at risk and this means forgoing treatment. By skipping the daily pill they don’t have to be constantly reminded of the risk of getting infected.
The smart pill is expected to increase adherence by eliminating forgetfulness and second guessing. The technology is also more appealing because it goes beyond reminding a patient to take their pill.
The patient is required to wear a patch that allows the sensor to relay findings. This patch also takes readings of the patient’s heart rate, sleep patterns and other important fitness measures thus enhancing the patient’s general health and well-being.