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March 31, 2010

Smart Pills Could Help Save 218,000 Lives Each Year

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Seeking a way to confirm that patients have taken their medication, University of Florida engineering researchers have added a tiny microchip and digestible antenna to a standard pill capsule. The prototype is intended to pave the way for mass-produced pills that, when ingested, automatically alert doctors, loved ones or scientists working with patients in clinical drug trials. Studies have found that not taking medication properly results in 218,000 deaths annually.



Studies have found, for example, that patients with chronic diseases normally take only about half their prescribed medications. According to the American Heart Association, 10 percent of hospital admissions result from patients not following the guidelines on their prescriptions.

So-called “medication compliance” is a big problem for clinical trials, Bashirullah said, because failure to take experiment drugs skews studies’ results or renders them meaningless. As a result, researchers often require visual confirmation of participants taking pills, an extremely expensive proposition if hundreds or thousands of people are participating in the trials.

“The idea is to use technology to do this in a more seamless, much less expensive way,” Bashirullah said.


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