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This smart pill will tattle to your doctor if you don’t take your meds

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Have you ever been prescribed medication and then forgotten to take a dose and accidentally skipped it? It’s one thing if that’s a drug designed to treat a minor skin infection. But what if it’s something far more life-altering, like an antiretroviral drug used for treating HIV? In that case, defaulting on said drug could be profoundly dangerous. At the very least, it’s something your family physician would probably want to know about it.

Thanks to a new kind of smart pill, called ID-Cap, they very soon will be able to. Developed by the medical startup EtectRx, ID-Cap is an ingestible capsule and sensor system which can reveal when it’s been successfully taken by a patient. “There is well-documented medical research that patients are not as good as they should be as at taking their medicine; this is known as being non-adherent,” Harry Travis, president and CEO of EtectRx, told Digital Trends. “We believe our technology will, in some small way, help clinicians help their patients take their medicine.”

The system is comprised of three parts: the ID-Capsule, ID-Tag, and ID-Cap Reader, alongside a software layer which allows the data to be displayed for both patient and clinician. The ID-Capsule is a standard pharmaceutical capsule shell containing the ID-Tag ingestible sensor. This sensor emits a very low power radio frequency digital message from within the patient, which is sent to the ID-Cap Reader, a wearable device that verifies the message as a valid ingestion event. Finally, the information is transmitted, via Bluetooth LE, to data display systems utilized by clinicians and patients.

EtectRx is currently waiting for official clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It hopes that this will be granted later this year. It is also the subject of a study being carried out in partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health.

This study will examine what impact the system could have on patients potentially adhering to HIV medication. That is crucial for reasons which go way beyond simply one patient. When it comes to a potentially deadly disease like HIV, being able to ensure that antiretrovirals are taken could help end the spread of HIV. What more could you want from a smart pill?

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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