Thursday, November 16, 2017 by Ethan Huff
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially granted its approval for a newfangled tracking device that pharmaceutical companies can now legally manufacture into drug pills in order to monitor whether or not patients are taking all of their prescriptions.
The technology is being specifically touted as a solution to the problem of psychiatric patients who forget to take their medicines, which could result in them committing violent acts toward themselves or others. But the privacy implications of adding tiny microchips to medications that people take every day are a major concern, even as the FDA proceeds with fast-tracking their use in pharmaceuticals.
Branded under the name of “MyCite,” these chips are already being used in Abilify aripiprazole tablets for schizophrenia. Those who suffer chronic manic episodes are being instructed to wear special patches on their arms that communicate with the chips as they make their way through patients’ bodies. Information is then transmitted via the patches to the patients’ smartphones, which can be monitored by doctors or pharmacists.
“The Abilify MyCite features a sensor the size of a grain of sand made of silicon, copper, and magnesium,” explains a report on the technology by The Verge.
“An electrical signal is activated when the sensor comes into contact with stomach acid – the sensor then passes through the body naturally. A patch the patient wears on their left rib cage receives the signal several minutes after the pill is ingested. The patch then sends data like the time the pill was taken and the dosage to a smartphone app over Bluetooth.”
So what’s the problem? Beyond simply monitoring whether or not patients take their medications, the MyCite technology is also capable of tracking how much people exercise, how long they sleep, how many steps they walk every day, what their heart rate is at any given time, and various other data points indicative of lifestyle habits – which many see as a major violation of personal privacy.
While only the patient’s individual doctor and up to four other individuals are privy to such information, it still ends up being sent out into cyberspace. This opens up the possibility for malicious hackers to potentially break into the system and exploit such information for nefarious purposes, presenting vulnerabilities similar to those inherent in electronic medical records systems.
And what’s to stop the drug industry from implementing tracking chips in medications other than just those used for psychiatric treatment? Back in 2010, drug giant Novartis introduced a “smart pill” technology similar to the one being used for schizophrenics – except that it was presented as a ubiquitous tracking technology for use in all types of pharmaceuticals.
It’s a slippery slope towards total government control over the population via “modern medicine,” and a type of control that could be used to force medications on unwilling recipients. Hypothetically speaking, imagine if some government agency were to suddenly suggest that everyone needs to be taking lithium in order to calm them down and help prevent mass shootings? Tracking technology in pharmaceuticals could potentially be used to enforce compliance with such a mandate.
“What is the government’s obsession with keeping the people doped up? Complacency, perhaps?” asks Mac Slavo of SHTFplan.com. “…[T]racking pills will be a step towards punishing patients who don’t comply with either medical or government demands to take drugs,” he adds, citing a Harvard Medical School professor who similarly warned that while digital pills have the potential to improve public health, they could also “foster more mistrust instead of trust.”
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