Easy to swallow: rapid growth in smart pill market expected by 2025

The global ‘smart pill’ market is expected to be worth $3bn by the year 2025, according to new research.

Once thought to be the stuff of science fiction, the use of sensors, trackers and cameras in smart pills to allow different aspects of a patient’s health to be monitored from the inside could become more commonplace, with the potential to replace more invasive diagnostic techniques.

In a report by Grand View Research, the global smart pills market, which was valued at $779.9m in 2016, is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5%.

Market leaders such as Medtronic, Olympus Corporation, Proteus Digital Health, MediSafe and CapsoVision are expected to expand on the range and capabilities of smart pills currently available.

The main application of such pills is the monitoring of gastrointestinal conditions, with the report citing the need for less invasive and more convenient alternatives to endoscopies as a major driver of the market’s growth.

Capsule endoscopies, which have been available since 2001, have transformed gastrointestinal diagnostics, but more recent developments in patient monitoring systems and drug delivery further expand the potential uses of smart pill technology.

Pills that can monitor different bodily functions such as PH, respiratory rate and heart rate from inside the gastrointestinal tract, as well as capsules that can be used to deliver drugs to specific parts of the body, are among the newer developments in the area of digital health.

The report cites an aging population, a rise in gastrointestinal diseases and a global rise in cancer screening programmes as other factors in the predicted market growth. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2017, 95,520 new case of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer were diagnosed in the US, driving a rise in the use of smart pills in their monitoring and diagnosis.

Although North America has the largest revenue share, Asia Pacific is predicted to witness the fastest growth due to factors such as an increase in the rates of stomach cancer and gastrointestinal disorders in the region.

In November 2017, Abilify MyCite, a drug used to treat schizophrenia which sends a signal from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch and records whether a patient has taken it, was approved by the FDA, raising ethical concerns over the extent to which physicians should be able to monitor drug adherence in patients.

Speaking to The New York Times in November, Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University said: “Many of those patients don’t take meds because they don’t like side effects, or don’t think they have an illness, or because they become paranoid about the doctor or the doctor’s intentions.

“A system that will monitor their behaviour and send signals out of their body and notify their doctor? You would think that, whether in psychiatry or general medicine, drugs for almost any other condition would be a better place to start than a drug for schizophrenia.”

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