17/01/2012 05:55 GMT | Updated 17/01/2012 07:37 GMT

New 'Smart' Pill With Edible Microchip Monitors Patients' Medication

A new ‘smart' pill that helps patients to manage their medication, as well as monitoring their heart rate and body temperature, is to be available in British pharmacies within months.

The pill, embedded with a tiny edible microchip, records the details of a patient’s medication programme through a monitoring “receiver” patch attached to their shoulder or arm.

The microchip can monitor when drugs are taken, how much dosage should be administered and when the next dose is due. It also monitors heart rate and body temperature and records if the patient is getting enough sleep or exercise.

This data is picked up by a receiver in the arm patch, which uses technology similar to electrocardiogram (ECG) skin patches that can record the electric currents within the heart.

The receiver decodes the data and transmits the information to the patient’s mobile to inform them when the next dose is due and relay the rest of the health data.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to half of patients do not take their medications properly, putting their health at risk.

Furthermore, unused prescription medicine is estimated to cost the NHS in the UK almost £400m a year.

The pill is to be sold by Lloydspharmacy by September. The UK high-street pharmacy chain has teamed up with US digital health company Proteus Biomedical, Inc.

Steve Gray, healthcare services director of Lloydspharmacy, said: “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.

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

Commenting on the new partnership, Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive Officer at Proteus, said: “We are delighted to be working with Lloydspharmacy to launch Helius in the UK. Proteus and Lloydspharmacy share a common vision of how advancements in technology can be captured to improve the well being of patients struggling with complex medication regimes and health issues.

"The intimate knowledge that Lloydspharmacy’s healthcare teams have of their communities, patients and families makes the company a perfect partner with which to introduce a patient-focused service like Helius.”