Monday, December 22, 2014

Tiny Sensors May Soon Monitor Seniors’ Medicines From Inside

Story via Kaiser Health News

Ever been lost on a new trail on a hike? Or confused between north and south in a new city? Or after a certain age, unsure if you really took that anti-cholesterol pill last night, or was it the blood pressure pill?  They kind-of look the same.

Only about 50 percent of patients take their medications as prescribed. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 almost 40 percent of adults older than 65 were taking five or more prescriptions a day.

With families sometimes far away and many older people unable to afford personal caregivers, companies have searched for a technological solution to monitoring medicine.

Forget armband monitors like Fitbit, the newest body monitors are as tiny as BBs. These so-called nanomeds, miniscule sensors embedded in a placebo pill that you swallow, set up shop in your gut. As they slowly work their way through your system, these “ingestibles” – which are actually not digested – are switched on by contact with saliva and/or gastric juices. The signal is picked up by another sensor which looks like a Band-Aid and is worn on your chest.

This system records medicine intake as well as other measures, such as heart rate. The information shows up on your smartphone or tablet, via Bluetooth and can automatically go to your doctors, family members or caregivers, with your permission.

The Food and Drug Administration approved these devices in 2012, but they’re not on the open market yet. They’re still being tested in pilot projects, including with England’s National Health Service.

Proper use of powerful, sophisticated meds aimed at keeping the elderly active and out of institutional care, Bill Satariano of the UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health believes, will depend increasingly on these “indigestible chips.”

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