The chips that are good for your health

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

An edible microchip that records the precise details of a patient's pill regime will be available in Britain by the end of year following a commercial deal that opens the door to an era of digital medicines.

Click HERE to view 'Smart pill: How the new technology works'

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.

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.

Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Such tweet sorrow: Will's gone digital
arts
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
With Jo Joyner in 'Trying Again'
tvHe talks to Alice Jones on swapping politics for pillow talk
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
Life & Style
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Life & Style
On the dogwalk: a poodle on the runway during a Mulberry show in London
fashionThe duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
News
peopleEmma Appleton says photographer said he would shoot her for magazine if she slept with him
Extras
indybest
News
peopleRevealed: Goop.com's losses - and the pay rises
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Projects Financial Analyst - Global Technology firm

£55000 - £62000 per annum + outstanding benefits and bonus: Pro-Recruitment Gr...

Reception Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Reception teacher required for an Outs...

Commercial B2B Pricing Specialist - Global Bids and Tenders

£35000 - £45000 per annum + excellent company benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group...

DT Teacher - Food Technology

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents