A New Era in Medication Adherence

Dec. 13, 2013
Your pills and pill bottles know if you’ve been bad or good

I think we are all familiar with basic Santa procedure: follow your parents’ rules and be on your best behavior, and you will be rewarded with good things.

If only it were that easy for the pharmaceutical industry when it came to patient compliance. After all, what better gift than the gift of good health?

Arguably the largest problem in healthcare, it is estimated that medication non-adherence causes 30 – 50% of treatment failures and 125,000 deaths annually.

The annual direct cost to healthcare is estimated at $100 billion to $289 billion.

Pharmaceutical companies are motivated to increase adherence because higher compliance equates to better treatment effectiveness and overall better patient health...and of course, higher drug sales.

Because so many factors contribute to non-adherence, many strategies are utilized to help overcome compliance challenges. Two key strategies involve measuring medication adherence and simplifying the medication regimen process.

Technology to the rescue! A new era of “digital medicine,” in the form of smart pills and smart pill bottles, offers real-time adherence data via the same networks used by mobile phones.

Proteus Digital Health’s Helius system involves an ingestible biosensor and companion patch. The silicon sensor, which is no bigger than a grain of sand, is embedded into each pill. The pill uses stomach fluid as a power source to broadcast data, including vital information about medication-taking behaviors and how the body is responding, back to its battery-powered companion patch comfortable affixed to the patient’s body.

Captured data is then sent to the patient’s smartphone app. Customizable sharing profiles allow patients to share data with their doctors and family members to further encourage compliance.

AdhereTech, a startup company that will have its first pharma trial with Boehringer Ingelheim in 2014, has patented a smart pill bottle. Each time the bottle is used, it sends two pieces of data to AdhereTech viaVerizon’s data network: (1) a time-stamp of the open and close of the cap, and (2) the amount of medication removed.

AdhereTech then compares the data to the patient’s recommended dosage schedule and if a discrepancy exists, sends the patient (or family member) an alert via phone call, text message or email. As an added reminder, the bottle itself will light up and chime.

The company takes the compliance quest a step further, soliciting feedback from patients regarding why they did not comply, with the hopes of using this data to help solve non-adherence issues on an individual patient basis.

If patient compliance is on your wishlist this holiday season, the growing convergence of the tech and pharma industries is sure to deliver some good news.  

Additional info, links and fun stuff related to medication adherence and digital medicine

About the Author

Karen Langhauser | Digital Content Manager