Smart pill gives you a buzz if you forget to take your meds
A sensor the size of a grain of salt uses Bluetooth to send a digital message to an app on your phone
A “smart pill” with a digestible sensor can now record if people take their medicine on time by transmitting a signal from the stomach to a patch on the patient’s arm.
A technology firm implanted a dissolvable sensor inside the medicine to see if the pill would help men at high risk of HIV infection to remember to take a preventive drug daily.
The trial was conducted by Sarah Browne‚ a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Diego in the US. The results were announced at the International Aids Society conference last week in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The sensor inside the medicine is the size of a grain of salt and is made of silicon‚ copper and magnesium.
When the sensor reaches the stomach and comes into contact with stomach acid‚ it sends an electrical signal to a patch placed on the patient’s arm. Using Bluetooth technology‚ the patch sends a digital record to an app on the patient’s phone.
Of the 60 men who used the ARV smart pill‚ 92% had a positive experience with the system.With the patient’s permission‚ this data would be accessible to healthcare providers‚ meaning that doctors and insurance companies can track if the patient is taking his or her medicine.
Theoretically‚ the ingestible pill could tell medical aids if a patient was not taking medicine regularly‚ which could explain why they later developed complications.
Professor Linda-Gail Bekker from UCT expressed concerns about the new technology affecting patients’ right to privacy. “Digital medication raises questions about privacy‚” she warned.
To this, Browne said the patient would own his or her personal data. She said smart pills were “a patient empowerment tool”.
The sensor was designed by Proteus Digital Health. The US company claims on its website that studies from the World Health Organisation show that up to 50% of patients with chronic diseases don’t take medicine as often as they should.
The company expects to see significant benefits in the treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes‚ as these patients can face life-threatening and costly complications such as strokes if they forget to take their medicine.
The company claims studies have already shown that diabetics and patients with high blood pressure take their medicine more regularly when using the smart pills.
Proteus Digital Health envisages medical aids using the data from ingestible sensors to better manage patients – and ultimately to minimise uncontrolled health conditions‚ excess hospitalisation and emergency room visits‚ which result in additional costs to the US healthcare system of approximately $290-billion every year.