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Fitbit starts study to test if devices can detect irregular heart rhythms

(Reuters) – Fitbit Inc on Wednesday launched a virtual study to test if its wearable devices can detect irregular heart rhythms or atrial fibrillation.

The hardware to detect irregular beats is present in FitBit’s devices, but is not available to consumers. Device users who enroll in the study will be allowed to test it in order for Fitbit to seek regulatory review.

Fitbit, which is being acquired by Google-parent Alphabet Inc, said in October that it planned to develop here a method to detect irregular heartbeats that would match the feature available on rival Apple Inc’s Watch.

At the time, Fitbit said it would partner with the Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer Alliance on how to communicate with patients about the condition, but did not say when it would begin trials to gain approval from health authorities in the United States and elsewhere for its detection algorithm.

Fitbit said the study announced Wednesday will fill that purpose and generate data for its regulatory submissions around the world. The study will be led by Steven Lubitz, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

It is open to individuals in the United States who are over 22 years of age over and own Fitbit devices that can track heart rates, such as the “Ionic” and “Versa” models. Fitbit aims to enroll hundreds of thousands of people for the study.

Atrial fibrillation, the most common form of heart rhythm irregularity, increases the risk of stroke and is usually prevalent among people above 65 years.

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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