An edible microchip that records the precise details of a patient’s pill regime will be available in Britain by the end of year following a commercial deal that opens the door to an era of digital medicines.
A useful application of technology? Or an unwelcome and costly Pandora’s Box?
An American biomedical company has signed up with a British healthcare firm to sell digestible sensors, each smaller than a grain of sand, that can trigger the transmission of medical information from a patient’s body to the mobile phone of a relative or carer.The aim is to develop a suite of “intelligent medicines” that can help patients and their carers keep track of which pills are taken at what time of day, in order to ensure that complex regimes of drugs are given the best possible chance of working effectively.
It sounds purely beneficial, but then, so do most things when first invented.
Ultimately, the plan is for every one of the many pills taken each day by some of the most chronically-ill patients, especially those with mental health problems, to be digitally time-stamped as they are digested within the body.
Aha! I spot a possible driver for this there – ‘those with mental health problems’. Is this to be used as a way of ensuring schizophrenics released into the community take their pills, I wonder?
“There is a huge problem with medicines not being taken correctly,” said Steve Gray, healthcare services director of Lloydspharmacy.”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,” he added.
“Add to that complex health issues and families caring for loved ones who many not live with them and you can appreciate the benefits of an information service that helps patients to get the most from their treatments and for families to help them to remain well.”
Well, now for the nitty-gritty. If it works, what will it cost?
Neither company was prepared to comment on the cost of the digestible microchips, but industry sources suggested a starting cost of about £50 per week.
A ‘starting’ cost, eh? I wonder what that’ll be on the NHS?