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Excerpt: "An American biomedical company has signed up with a British healthcare firm to sell digestible sensors, each smaller than a grain of sand, that can trigger the transmission of medical information from a patient's body to the mobile phone of a relative or carer."

Ingestible chips, like these made by Proteus Biomedical, enter the body and send data to smartphones, 01/17/12. (photo: Michael Sugrue/Proteus)
Ingestible chips, like these made by Proteus Biomedical, enter the body and send data to smartphones, 01/17/12. (photo: Michael Sugrue/Proteus)



Edible Microchips That Are 'Good for Your Health'

By Steve Connor, The Independent UK

17 January 12

 

Pharmacy to sell edible microchips that will alert doctors if patients are not taking right medicines.

n American biomedical company has signed up with a British healthcare firm to sell digestible sensors, each smaller than a grain of sand, that can trigger the transmission of medical information from a patient's body to the mobile phone of a relative or carer.

The aim is to develop a suite of "intelligent medicines" that can help patients and their carers keep track of which pills are taken at what time of day, in order to ensure that complex regimes of drugs are given the best possible chance of working effectively.

Ultimately, the plan is for every one of the many pills taken each day by some of the most chronically-ill patients, especially those with mental health problems, to be digitally time-stamped as they are digested within the body.

The healthcare company Lloyds- pharmacy said it intends to sell the edible microchips of Proteus Biomedical of California by the end of the year, as part of a trial to test whether NHS patients would be prepared to pay privately to ensure that they or their relatives take the right medicines at the right time.

"There is a huge problem with medicines not being taken correctly," said Steve Gray, healthcare services director of Lloydspharmacy.

"Anyone taking several medications knows how easy it can be to lose track of whether or not you've taken the correct tablets that day," he added.

"Add to that complex health issues and families caring for loved ones who many not live with them and you can appreciate the benefits of an information service that helps patients to get the most from their treatments and for families to help them to remain well."

Lloydspharmacy said the World Health Organisation has found that about half of all patients fail to take their medicines correctly, which can lead to people not getting the full benefits of treatment, or ending up with harmful side-effects.

Unused prescription medicines are estimated to cost the NHS nearly £400m a year.

The Proteus technology is based on the company's digestible sensors, which are no bigger than a grain of sand. They are composed of the ingredients commonly found in food and are activated when they come into contact with stomach fluids.

At the heart of the technology is a tiny silicon wafer separating tiny quantities of copper and magnesium, which effectively forms a microscopic battery that generates an electric current when immersed in the acidic environment of the stomach.

These electric currents, which can be given individual signatures to match the drug taken with the edible sensor, are detected passively by an intelligent patch stuck to the patient's skin, in much the same way that electrocardiogram (ECG) skin patches can record the electric currents within the heart.

The patch, which is designed to be worn for seven days, includes a flexible battery and chip that records the information and sends it by Bluetooth wireless technology to the mobile phone of a relative or professional carer.

"In the future the goal is a fully integrated system that creates an information product that helps patients and their families with the demands of complex pharmacy," said Andrew Thompson, the chief executive and founder of Proteus Biomedical.

"What we know is that we've created many pharmaceuticals with great potential but much of that potential is not realised because these drugs are not being used properly."

Neither company was prepared to comment on the cost of the digestible microchips, but industry sources suggested a starting cost of about £50 per week.

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+11 # michelle 2012-01-17 18:30
or the chip makes sure we are all taking our 'soma' (Brave New World).
 
 
+11 # CandH 2012-01-17 21:52
Um, NO. And if I find one of those things transmitting from my body without my knowledge or approval, I'll file a lawsuit, all the way to the damn Supreme Court if I have to...um, NO, NO, NO.
 
 
+1 # Politicalprincess 2012-01-17 23:09
Digestible sensors could be used to release numerous prisoners who are mentally ill and do not belong in prison. However, I agree that their use must be carefully administered with legal safeguards. In addition many parents of young adults with mental health issues have no way of monitoring if they are taking their medications until there is a crisis. Therefore these monitors could be life saving.
 
 
+7 # HeidiStevenson 2012-01-18 01:21
This is the end of privacy. http://bit.ly/zcu2rr

To press taking drugs on anyone is a crime.
 
 
+1 # stonecutter 2012-01-18 07:19
"As part of a trial to test whether NHS patients would be prepared to pay privately..." "...Industry sources suggested a starting cost of about £50 per week."

I love these quotes; they're hidden bullshit "sensors" in the "stomach" of this article.At the current rate of exchange, this "breakthrough" internalized surveillance will cost, not covered by insurance, more than $300 a month for "peace of mind".

1) The putative core objective is to save the NHS money. In a country perhaps more economically depressed than the U.S., not an inherently evil concept, but why can't they just come out and state this? Instead, it gets wrapped in all this altruistic rubbish about helping caregivers and doctors. 2) The chip-maker is an American firm. If this works for the Brit NHS, guess where it's coming next? If it's $300 a month to start, will the cost go up or down? Who pays? 3) The most insidious aspect: If they can track pills and dosages, what else will they be able to track before they're through "developing" this "grain of sand"? Isn't this just another form of RFID, turning tags into microscopic sensors floating inside the body, prepared to locate you anywhere, anytime, to anyone with a receiver? Able to transmit who-knows-what as yet undeveloped data about you to...whom? The military, perhaps, under the radioactively controversial 2011 NDAA, recently signed into law? Nah, let's trust everyone involved...it's all about "good health", isn't it?
 
 
+4 # OLFashioned1 2012-01-18 11:25
And what other "biological" information will these microchips be able to transmit to literally anyone with a cell phone?. Will their conversations be transmitted too?, their bathroom visits?, their Every movement? How can the microchips be detected and removed, especially if they cause problems in the body?
 
 
-3 # coffeewriter 2012-01-18 20:07
Perhaps you don't understand the article. The chips are the size of a grain of sand and are edible, thus digestible. Even if they weren't, you can eat a LOT of grains of sand without any problems.

Secondly, they're really like electric circuits - when activated by stomach acids they send a small electric current to a sensor on the skin. They cannot record or transmit information.

That is not to say that one day technology won't produce a tiny chip capable of ingestion and transmission of information. And this will certainly eventually be used for nefarious means. But for now, I wouldn't worry too much about these little sensors!
 
 
+3 # stonecutter 2012-01-19 07:07
What if "one day" is already here? What if they've already developed the "nefarious" chip that CAN transmit data? What if they're following a carefully considered plan to introduce this "harmless" sensor first, get people comfortable with having these things inside their bodies, so they can proceed to phase 2? Frankly, I do not consider this scenario remotely paranoid; just a reasonable guess based on RFID technology already in use.
 
 
+1 # OLFashioned1 2012-01-22 15:45
The first paragraph of this article says the microchips can "trigger the transmission of medical information from a patient's body to the mobile phone of a relative or carer".
As far as I'm concerned, anything that can send electronic signals anywhere, also has the potential to receive electronic signals. I'd hate to get a stinging pain somewhere in my body because I forgot to take a pill. Anything that can transmit biological information from the body in the form of an electronic signal, no matter how small, is a total invasion of privacy, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyone that is so incapacitated that they cannot follow their doctor's directions for taking their meds needs a caregiver to visit with them to make sure they are also getting their other needs met such as meals and proper hygiene.
 

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