On sale, smart pill with 'edible microchip' that tells you and your doctor when the next dose is dueA patch on the skin will pick up a signal once tablet is swallowed and relay this to a smart phone
The system will be offered to patients taking medication for heart conditions and diabetes

Smart pills that tell patients and their doctors if medication is being taken properly are to go on sale in Britain.

Patients
take their drugs along with an extra tablet embedded with a tiny edible
sensor which sends back information to a receiver in the form of a
patch worn on the shoulder or arm.

This
tracks when the drugs were taken and the dose, as well as monitoring
heart rate and body temperature. It also alerts a patient to when the
next dose is due and records whether the patient is sleeping well or
taking enough exercise.

Enlarge

How the smart pill works

Innovation: The shoulder patch logs what time the pills reach the patient's stomach and sends the information to their smartphone

Innovation: The shoulder patch logs what time the pills reach the patient's stomach and sends the information to their smartphone

The information is downloaded to a computer or smartphone which can be accessed by the patient and their doctor.

Older
patients, in particular, may need to remember to take five or more
different pills at a time, three times a day, for problems such as heart
disease and diabetes.

Around half of patients do not take their medication properly, meaning they are not getting the full benefit.

The Helius system could prove useful for patients on complex medication regimes. However, it will only be offered privately

The Helius system could prove useful for patients on complex medication regimes. However, it will only be offered privately

Under the Helius system of smart
pills, they would get the five drugs they need each time in a blister
pack. The pack would also include the Helius tablet embedded with a
sensor the size of a grain of rice.

This is made from food ingredients
that react with stomach fluids to power a digital signal for around five
minutes which sends information to the shoulder patch about what pills
have been taken and when.

The information is then downloaded for the
patient and doctor to check that the medication is being taken
correctly. The estimated cost to the NHS of unused medication is thought
to be almost 400million a year.

High street chain Lloyds-pharmacy has
signed a deal with U.S.-based digital healthcare provider Proteus
Biomedical to bring the system to Britain. Patients will be able to buy
it privately for around 50 a month from September.

Graphic - sensor is activated

graphic of microchip

Graphic of microchip - patch transmits data to phone

The sensor is swallowed along with the patient's pills. It creates a unique electrical signal picked up by the skin patch. The patch transmits this data to a mobile using bluetooth

The sensor is the same size of a grain of rice

The sensor is the same size of a grain of rice

However
Nick Pickles, of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This
technology has massive potential benefits for healthcare, but it should
not be adopted at the expense of patient privacy.

‘Patients
taking this medication, and their families, should be aware that they
are doing so and be able to see a full breakdown of what data is
captured and who it is accessed by.’

Steve
Gray, healthcare services director of Lloydspharmacy, said: ‘Anyone
taking several medications knows how easy it can be to lose track of
whether or not you’ve taken the correct tablets that day.

‘Add
to that complex health issues and families caring for loved ones who
may not live with them and you can appreciate the benefits of an
information service that helps patients get the most from their
treatments and for families to help them remain well.’

Chip
and pill trials have been carried out in the past but it is thought
this is the first time it has been made available to consumers to buy.

Proteus Biomedical from Proteus Biomedical on Vimeo.