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A necklace that checks the pills you take

I'm sure you've already failed to take some pills ordered by your physician. In fact, one in three adults forgets to take their medicines, and for lots of different reasons. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a solution for this problem which costs billions of dollars each year to the U.S. alone. They've developed a sensor necklace to monitor how we take pills. Unlike former devices, this necklace 'records the exact time and date when specially-designed pills are swallowed, and reminds the user if any doses are being missed.' And it can help elderly people by wirelessly sending messages to their doctors. But read more...
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Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

I'm sure you've already failed to take some pills ordered by your physician. In fact, one in three adults forgets to take their medicines, and for lots of different reasons. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a solution for this problem which costs billions of dollars each year to the U.S. alone. They've developed a sensor necklace to monitor how we take pills. Unlike a former device, this necklace 'records the exact time and date when specially-designed pills are swallowed, and reminds the user if any doses are being missed.' And it can help elderly people by wirelessly sending messages to their doctors. But read more...

Sensor necklace for drug compliance

You can see above how such a sensor necklace will work and help patients forget to take their medicine in the right doses at the right time. (Credit: Maysam Ghovanloo research projects)

This new device has been developed by Maysam Ghovanloo, an assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Bionics Lab at GT. He was seconded by graduate student Xueliang Huo that you can discover on this page.

So how does this device work? "The necklace, called MagneTrace, contains an array of magnetic sensors that could be used to detect when specially-designed medication containing a tiny magnet passes through a person's esophagus. And for persons who may not want to wear a necklace, MagneTrace sensors can be incorporated into a patch attached to the chest. The date and time the user swallowed the pill can be recorded on a handheld wireless device, such as a smartphone, carried on the user’s body. The information can then be sent to the patient's doctor, caregiver or family member over the internet. The device can notify both the patient and the patient’s doctor if the prescribed dosage is not taken at the proper time."

This device has not yet been tested on animals or humans, but according to the researchers theoretical and experimental analysis, it should show a 95% accuracy. They say that "MagneTrace is that it monitors ingestion, whereas technologies currently on the market for monitoring drug compliance are typically non-ingestion monitors, which can be easily deceived by the users, either deliberately or unintentionally. 'Other devices just tell the doctor if a pill bottle was opened. These devices are not smart enough to tell how many pills, if any, were removed from the bottle, nor if the pill was actually ingested by the intended patient,' said Ghovanloo."

For more information, this research work about this device and a proof of concept have been published in the December 2007 issue of the IEEE Sensors Journal under the title "A Wireless Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitoring System Based on Magneto-Inductive Sensors" (Volume 7, Issue 12, Pages 1711-1719).

Here is the beginning of the abstract. "We have developed a magnetic sensor-based wireless pharmaceutical compliance monitoring (PCM) system using an array of magneto-inductive sensors mounted around the patient's neck in the form of a tight necklace. This system detects the passage of a pill or capsule embedded with a small permanent magnet as a tracer through the esophagus upon ingestion. As a result, a signal representing a ldquodose ingestion eventrdquo is generated and wirelessly transmitted to a data delivery device (PDA), which is carried on the patient's body. A software application running on the PDA time/date stamps the event and stores it for later retrieval by a physician."

Finally, you should know that the researchers have filed an application for a patent November 8, 2007 about this sensor necklace. This patent carries the number WO/2007/127316 and is named Oral drug compliance monitoring using magnetic-field sensors.

Even if such a device will not be available for years, one question remains: would you prefer an artificial neck or a chest patch? Drop me a note if you feel concerned.

Sources: Georgia Institute of Technology Research News, March 5, 2008; and various websites

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