Harvard Heart Letter

"Smart pill" won't let you forget to take your medications

Figuring out who is taking their pills is about to get easier. The FDA recently approved a "smart pill" that can tell whether a medication has been taken as prescribed. Made by Proteus Digital Health, the small pill is made primarily of silicon and embedded with a microchip sensor no bigger than a grain of sand. When activated by stomach acid, the sensor transmits a signal to a skin patch that indicates that a medication has been swallowed. The patch sends the information to a smartphone app, along with the wearer's heart rate, temperature, and activity level. The battery-operated patch must be changed weekly.

With about 50% of people not taking their medications properly, U.S. doctors are excited about the potential of this technology, particularly in diseases where medications are vitally important to survival or the prevention of serious side effects. It is also expected to help doctors refine dosages and measure benefits.

Proteus' smart pill went on sale in Europe last month and will go on sale in the U.S. shortly.

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