A video of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaking at the World Economic Forum is going viral on social media, where he is heard referring to pills with a ‘biological chip’ that sends a signal once ingested. Online users are sharing the video believing it to be a new innovation of the Pfizer company linked to the COVID pandemic. Newschecker found that the video was shared out of context and is unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the video Albert Bourla is seen discussing a biological chip placed inside a tablet that sends a signal that you took the tablet. He adds: “Imagine the applications of that, the compliance.”
The video has been shared on Twitter by user @arunpudur who is an entrepreneur with over 80,000 followers on the platform. The video has been shared along with the caption ‘”Ingestible Pills” – a pill with a tiny bio-chip that sends a wireless signal to authorities when the tablet has been digested. “Imagine the compliance,” Says #Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla explaining Pfizer’s new tech at #WEF. Didn’t everyone call this a Conspiracy Theory?’
Newschecker found similar claims on Twitter with different captions.
In addition to social media users, the claim was also made by several websites.
In April, the WHO recommended the use of an oral pill which contains a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, sold under the name Paxlovid, made by Pfizer for mild and moderate COVID-19 patients at highest risk of hospital admission, calling it the best therapeutic choice for high-risk patients to date, last month. Pfizer and Bourla have been at the receiving end of multiple fake claims by anti-vaxxers, ranging from Bourla’s arrest to his wife’s death after taking the COVID vaccine. You can read some of our fact checks here, here and here.
Fact Check /Verification
We started our investigation by conducting a reverse image search on Google of the key-frames of the video and found a longer version of the video uploaded on 25th January, 2018 on the official Youtube channel of World Economic Forum.
At the 45 minute mark in the video, an audience member is seen asking a question to the members in the panel regarding patient engagement with the drug. The audience member asks “Even if you make the greatest drug in the world, there is no guarantee that the patient will take the drug. How does the panel think in terms of engaging the patient?”
In reply to the audience question, Pfizer CEO Albert Boura says that there is already a pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“It’s fascinating what’s happening in this field right now. FDA approved the first electronic pill, if I can call it like that,” Bourla can be heard saying in the 2018 clip. “It is basically a biological chip that is in the tablet and once you take the tablet, it dissolves into your stomach, sending a signal that you took the tablet. So imagine the implications of that, the compliance.”
Upon conducting a keyword search with the words “digital tracking”, “drug” and “ingestion”, we found an article by the Indian Express uploaded on 14th November, 2017 titled ‘US FDA approves first digital ingestion tracking system drug to ensure prescriptions’.
According to the article that was published on 14th November, 2017 by the Indian Express “The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug in the United States with a digital ingestion tracking system, in an unprecedented move to ensure that patients with mental illness take the medicine prescribed for them. The drug Abilify MyCite was developed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd. The drug Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat schizophrenia, and the ingestible sensor, made by Proteus Digital health, was approved for marketing in 2012. The FDA said in a statement Monday that the digitally enhanced medication “works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch.”
It is clear that Bourla was describing Abilify MyCite, a drug with a “digital ingestion tracking system”.
Upon further investigation, Newschecker found a press release by the FDA on November 13, 2017 about the drug Abilify Mycite.
According to the press release “Abilify MyCite was approved by the FDA for the treatment of “schizophrenia, acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder and for use as an add-on treatment for depression in adults.”
The press release further added that Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor) works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch, which “transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smartphone,” reads the announcement. It adds that patients can also give permission to caregivers and physicians to access the information through a web portal.
Newschecker’s investigation reveals that the comments regarding an ingestible bio chip in tablets, by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the WEF, are old and unrelated to COVID-19 vaccine, and are shared without proper context.
Result: False Context/ Missing Context
Youtube video by channel World Economic Forum (25th January, 2018)
Indian Express report, US FDA approves first digital ingestion tracking system drug to ensure prescriptions (14th November, 2017)
Press Release by FDA (13th November, 2017)
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