Smart pill containing microchip tracks adherence to medication

US technology firm Proteus Biomedical has launched a smart pill with an integrated microchip that tracks patients’ adherence to their medication.

The Helius system comprises an ’ingestible event marker’ (IEM) pill, a sensor patch worn on the body and a smartphone application.

The IEM is activated when subjected to water and is powered by a thin-film non-toxic battery. Once activated, the IEM sends a modulated high-frequency electrical signal, using the body as a conduit, to the patch applied to the skin.

The system also allows for measurement of the heart-rate, internal body temperature, respiration rate, posture and sleeping patterns. All of this information is relayed via the app to a website that provides statistics in graph form.

Thus patients and carers can check their chart to see if they have taken all of their pills or not. The information could also be sent to the doctor who prescribed the medication to see if it’s having the desired effect.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 50 per cent of patients fail to take their medicines correctly. This can result in patients not gaining the full benefit of their treatment or worse, being at risk of harmful reactions. Unused prescription medicine is also estimated to cost the NHS in the UK around £396m a year.

As part of the agreement with Proteus, Lloydspharmacy will launch Helius in the UK and sell the system through selected pharmacies.

Steve Gray, Lloydspharmacy healthcare services director, 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.’