Jo MacFarlane – Daily Mail April 12, 2009
Microchips in pills could soon allow doctors to find out whether a patient has taken their medication.
The digestible sensors, just 1mm wide, would mean GPs and surgeons could monitor patients outside the hospital or surgery.
Developers say the technology could be particularly useful for psychiatric or elderly patients who rely on a complicated regime of drugs – and are at risk if they miss a dose or take it at the wrong time.
It could also be used for the chronically ill, such as people with heart disease, to establish whether costly drugs are working or whether they are causing potentially dangerous side effects.
The sensors could even remind women to take the Pill if they forget.
The ‘intelligent’ medicine works by activating a harmless electric charge when drugs are digested by the stomach.
This charge is picked up by a sensing patch on the patients’ stomach or back, which records the time and date that the pill is digested. It also measures heart rate, motion and breathing patterns.
The information is transmitted to a patient’s mobile phone and then to the internet using wireless technology, to give a complete picture of their health and the impact of their drugs.
Doctors and carers can view this information on secure web pages or have the information sent to their mobile phones.
The silicon microchips are invisible to patients and can be added to any standard drug during the manufacturing process.
Two major drugs companies are investigating the technology, developed by US-based Proteus Biomedical. Trials are to begin in the UK within 12 months.
Professor Nick Peters, a cardiologist at Imperial College London, who is co-ordinating trials, said the technology was ‘transformative’.
‘This is all about empowering patients and their families because it measures wellness, and people can actually be tracked getting better,’ he said.
‘Psychologically speaking, that’s hugely helpful for patients and enormously reassuring for carers.
‘Normally patients would have to be in hospital to get this level of feedback, so the hope is that it frees up beds and saves the NHS money.’