Home The (Near) Future of Medicine: Take Two Computers and IM Me in the Morning

The (Near) Future of Medicine: Take Two Computers and IM Me in the Morning

Swiss drug company Novartis will start testing pills with broadcasting censors in them in about 18 months, if regulatory approval comes through as expected.

The test program will feature organ transplant patients. The medicines they will take to avoid organ rejection will be outfitted with chips that will gather and broadcast information on dosage and timing.

The transponder chip technology was purchased from Redwood City-based biomed company Proteus for $24 million, according to Reuters.

“The biotech start-up’s ingestible chips are activated by stomach acid and send information to a small patch worn on the patient’s skin, which can transmit data to a smartphone or send it over the Internet to a doctor.”

Proteus delves a bit deeper on the nature of their “ingestible event markers” or IEMs.

“(T)he IEM creates an ultra-low-power, private, digital signal detected by a microelectronic recorder configured as either a small bandage style skin-patch or a tiny device inserted under the skin. The detector date- and time-stamps, decodes, and records information such as type of drug, dose, and place of manufacture, and also measures and reports physiologic parameters such as heart rate, activity, and respiratory rate. Detector data can be combined at the server-level with other telemetered parameters such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and patient-generated feedback.”

Given the wide spectrum of data it can gather, Novartis global head of development Trevor Mundel says the company believes it will scale up to cover many different types of medical needs.

An obstacle to this technology, and possibly to regulator approval, is privacy. How easy is the signal to read for those outside the patient’s medical loop? Europe, by and large, is more stringent in approval of devices with privacy risks, so approval is hardly a fait accompli. If it does get approval in Europe, it is very likely to find it in the U.S. as well.

Read more ReadWriteWeb coverage of health, healthcare and the Internet of things

Photos from Proteus

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