New technology for pill tracking
Pills of every variety can now be embedded with tiny digestible chips that can track if a patient is taking medication on time.
This new digital feedback technology comes courtesy of Redwood City, California’s Proteus Digital Health Inc. The pills can also remind patients to take medication if they miss a dose — and even tell them to take a walk if they have been inactive for a while.
Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, a non-profit medical service provider, told Reuters of the growing problem of people not taking their medication: “Overall, people only take their medications half of the time … adherence is a really big issue across all treatments.”
While this technology can certainly help those with complicated and extensive medical routines, critics say it may be too invasive and big brother-like for some people to adopt it with any regularity.
Approved last month by the United States Food and Drug Administration, the technology has already attracted investments from giant drug companies in Japan and Switzerland, along with medical device and chipmaker companies.
How it works
These new smart pills work through a skin patch worn by the patient. It is this patch that the pill’s sensor reports to once the pill is ingested. As tiny as a grain of salt, no antenna or battery is needed, and the sensor is actived once wet from being swallowed.
Coatings of copper and magnesium on both sides generate a tiny, electric bolt for a few minutes once the pill has been taken, allowing the skin patch to record the patient’s heart rate, body angle and activity at the time of ingestion. It then sends this information to a bluetooth-enabled device where patients, physicians and caregivers all have access to it.
The technology also allows users to set up alarms to remind themselves to take their pill and issue alerts, which could prove helpful for caregivers who can’t be present at all times.
Researchers are currently testing the sensor on renal transplantation patients who are required to follow a strict anti-rejection drug regimen. Original testing included 254 people who were being treated for tuberculosis, hypertension and congestive heart failure.
The company has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test the new technology further. The Gates Foundation gave a $560,000 grant to support a pilot study of the sensor on Chinese tuberculosis patients.
What do you think? Would you be comfortable using this technology or asking a family member you care for to use it?