Novartis has been looking at RFID technology for quite some time. Back in 2006, they were using RFID in the manufacturers packaging, and including some type of reading device to track compliance. This weeks news indicates they are putting RFID into the individual pills, in combination with a reader mounted on an individuals shoulder.
I can understand the rationale….
The experiment comes amid rising concern among governments and health insurers that they are not seeing the health improvements claimed by drugs companies because patients do not take the medicines as prescribed unless they are closely supervised in clinical trials.
Yet, my thinking is, egads, there has to be a better way, and perhaps more importantly, a way in which to do so to avoid locking into a single vendor. Obviously while Novartis is not against a more elegant or transparent solution, they most certainly want some type of proprietary solution.
Certainly simple solutions which have been tried in the past, such as pill cap timers, or even timed pill boxes haven’t worked, probably because they require the user to transfer meds. In other words, the tech is not seamless. On the other hand, wearing a reader on ones shoulder isn’t exactly seamless either, but it is a lot more fool proof. Ie, the RFID reader only logs an event when the pill is within a few cm, thus ensuring a valid time/date stamp when the pill is actually swallowed.
Years ago, I was thinking of this as well. One of the ideas was a pill bottle holder with a strain gauge, such that every time the pill bottle was removed, an event was logged. In addition, the pill bottles quantity could be checked via weighing the bottle every time it was returned. The problems were two fold. First, its yet another gadget for the user to mess with, and secondly, just because the pill bottle was removed and a pill was removed, doesn’t mean said pill was actually taken.
Another idea was a pill bottle ring containing an RFID tag that could be transferred from bottle to bottle. A reader was implemented in a wristband, such that time and date stamps were made every time the bottle was opened. In addition to audio and visual reminders, it also had the provision to upload data to the internet for ease of analysis, and/or potential physician monitoring. Such a system also suffered the issue of transparency and extra gadgets. Alas, such was during the dot bomb days, and it also died on the vine.