London: Help is at hand for those who often forget to take their pills.
Smart pills that tell patients and their doctors if medication is being taken properly are set to go on sale in Britain.
Patients take their drugs along with an extra tablet embedded with a tiny edible sensor, which sends back information to a receiver in the form of a patch worn on the shoulder or arm.
This tracks when the drugs were taken and the dose, as well as monitoring heart rate and body temperature. It also alerts a patient to when the next dose is due and records whether the patient is sleeping well or taking enough exercise.
The information is downloaded to a computer or smartphone, which can be accessed, by the patient and their doctor, the Daily Mail reported.
Older patients, in particular, may need to remember to take five or more different pills at a time, three times a day, for problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Around half of patients do not take their medication properly, meaning they are not getting the full benefit.
Under the Helius system of smart pills, they would get the five drugs they need each time in a blister pack. The pack would also include the Helius tablet embedded with a sensor the size of a grain of rice.
This is made from food ingredients that react with stomach fluids to power a digital signal for around five minutes which sends information to the shoulder patch about what pills have been taken and when.
The information is then downloaded for the patient and doctor to check that the medication is being taken correctly. The estimated cost to the NHS of unused medication is thought to be almost 400million pounds a year.
High street chain Lloyds-pharmacy has signed a deal with U.S.-based digital healthcare provider Proteus Biomedical to bring the system to Britain.
Patients will be able to buy it privately for around 50 pounds a month from September.
However Nick Pickles, of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: “This technology has massive potential benefits for healthcare, but it should not be adopted at the expense of patient privacy.
“Patients taking this medication, and their families, should be aware that they are doing so and be able to see a full breakdown of what data is captured and who it is accessed by,” he added.