Brits eager to try smart pills for med compliance, cost savings

"Smart" medications look to be gaining traction in the UK. Smart pill creator Proteus just inked a major deal with UK pharmacy company Lloyds Pharmacy. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed, but the British pharmacy giant says it soon will sell medication packs, called Helius, embedded with Proteus' tiny edible sensors.

Patients are given a wearable sensor patch, according to the Daily Mail Online, which they put on the skin. The patch automatically picks up transmission from the smart pill when it hits the patient's stomach. The patch then transmits that information via Bluetooth to a smartphone or other mobile device. According to Proteus officials, the patch also measures a host of biometrics, including temperature, activity and sleep levels, and transmits that information as well.

Britain's National Health Service tested the smartpill combinations on cardiac patients in the summer of 2010 to ensure that heart patients took their beta blockers and diuretic pills, according to mHealth Update. The trial was designed to determine if smart pills could improve med compliance and reduce the costs of untaken medications. Now, several units of the NHS say they want to use the service for monitoring complex high-cost treatments such as organ transplant rejection therapies, according to a report in London's Financial Times.

FierceMobileHealthcare reported in early 2010 that Proteus had partnered with Novartis, although we didn't have details on the deal. The Financial Times recently revealed, though, that the Swiss drug company is adding the microchipped pills to its blood pressure drug Diovan, and is studying the pills' use for in diabetes, mental health and tuberculosis.

As intriguing as the technology is, it may have some major obstacles to overcome among patients wary of intrusions into their privacy.

"This technology has massive potential benefits for healthcare, but it should not be adopted at the expense of patient privacy," Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told the UK's Daily Mail Online. "Patients taking this medication, and their families, should not only be aware that they are doing so, but also be able to see a full breakdown of what data is captured and who it is accessed by."

To learn more:
- read the Daily Mail Online article
- check out the Financial Times story (subscription required)