Smart pills = smarter doctors?

Are smart pills the way of the future for pharmaceuticals?

A year ago, the Economist reported that pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced it had spent $24 million to secure a license on drug-delivery technologies developed by Proteus Biomedical. The move made Novartis the largest pharmaceutical company to set its sights on so-called "smart-pill" technology.

This new smart pill technology allows pills to report data about a patient back to doctors after the pill has been swallowed. Activated by stomach acid, the data can be easily uploaded to a smart phone or sent to a doctor over the Internet.

Novartis is now conducting trials using Proteus technology along with Novartis products to evaluate the success of the smart-pill in patients.

The company has already conducted a phase II study of the microchip in adult renal transplant recipients. The results of the study are currently being gathered and analyzed, Novartis said.

"The goal of combining a Novartis drug with the Proteus device is to shed light on a patient’s adherence to medications," a Novartis spokesperson said. "By allowing a patient to set goals and track progress, the sensor-based system will help the patient understand, and potentially improve their medication-taking behavior and track their levels of activity and sleep patterns to inform good health behaviors."

New technologies like the smart pill will enable doctors to better monitor a patient’s use of medicine, enabling practitioners and patients to have discussions about treatment based on data rather than relying on the patient to track and monitor their use of the medication.

For veterinarians, the new smart-pill technology would offer the same ability to report exactly when and what dosage medication their patients received.

"The information from the system will also enable better conversations between patients, their physicians and caregivers to help support patients’ health management," the Novartis spokesperson told Trends Today. "For healthcare providers, the information, if shared by the patient, confirms that the medication was taken. This system will offer doctors and patients the opportunity to have more productive, fact-based discussions about treatment."

The potential doesn’t stop with human doctors, however.

Novartis products currently range from treatment for flea and worm infections to treatment for osteoarthritis pain and inflammation. According to Novartis, the smart-pill technology has potential to succeed within its Animal Health division, as well.

"Novartis has an Animal Health division and various possibilities, across Divisions, are currently being assessed," a Novartis spokesperson said.
SmartPill Corp is also testing the waters for veterinary use of the smart-pill technology. According to the company, the SmartPill GI Monitoring System can be used to monitor gastrointestinal function in animal species. In tests, the smart-pill technology has reported pH, pressure and temperature levels in mixed breed dogs, allowing researchers to determine gastric emptying time, small bowel and large bowel movements and total transit times. 

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