Treating and Preventing Opioid Abuse with Digital Pills

  • 29 Mar 2018
  • 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
  • 121

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Treating and Preventing Opioid Abuse with Digital Pills


How do patients actually take as-needed, or PRN, pain medications? Electronic adherence monitors (EAMs) can help clinicians infer if a patient has taken a medication. Unfortunately, EAMs only measure the opening of a pill bottle or a pill dispenser; they cannot measure the ingestion of pain pills—and pain pills are some of the most commonly prescribed PRN medications.

Digital pills (also called “digiceuticals”) are a simple and effective way to measure the ingestion of medications. Drs. Boyer and Chai developed a digiceutical made from a standard oxycodone tablet inserted into a product made by eTect RX—a standard gelatin capsule containing a radiofrequency emitter that activates only in the stomach.

Drs. Boyer and Chai prescribed one week’s worth of oxycodone digiceuticals to emergency department patients with a major fracture. Patients began to taper their pain medications by 24 hours post injury. By 72-96 hours after injury, almost everyone had stopped taking oxycodone. The only person who did not taper down oxycodone had not disclosed a previous history of substance abuse. At the end of the study, a pill count verified the amount of medication recorded by the digiceutical technology matching the amount of medication that had been taken by participants.

Key Learnings:

  • Patients can use digiceuticals—one of the study participants was homeless, and several more were of educational status.
  • Digiceuticals can identify pill ingestion, even of PRN medications.
  • Physicians overprescribe opioids.

Presenter Details:

  • Edward W. Boyer, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
  • Peter Chai, M.D., MMS., Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology

About the Brigham Innovation Hub

The Brigham Innovation Hub (iHub) was launched in September 2013 as a resource center for innovators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to advance their ideas for improving care. Since then iHub has evolved into a broader digital health consulting team, supporting internal innovation and also bringing in leading-edge digital solutions to create the hospital of the future.


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