Novartis Chip Texts Your Phone When You Need Another Pill

Last Updated Nov 9, 2010 3:53 PM EST

Novartis stuck computer chips onto the shoulders of 20 patients taking the blood pressure drug Diovan;* the chips sent text messages to their cellphones when it was time to take the next pill. The experiment was designed to improve "compliance." (Lousy compliance is the phenomenon of patients receiving prescriptions but not filling or taking them -- thus costing Big Pharma sales.)

The development will be sure to horrify conspiracy theorists, civil libertarians, privacy activists, paranoid schizophrenics and anyone else who does not want their activities monitored by computer chip.

The first chip is inside the pill being swallowed. It sends a signal to the chip in a patch on your shoulder. If you fail to take your next pill, the shoulder chip nags you on your mobile. Note that after the text arrives on your phone, the message then goes "onto the internet for caregivers to review and analyze."

It works, according to the FT:

Joe Jimenez, head of pharmaceuticals at Novartis, said tests using the system â€" which broadcasts from the "chip in the pill" to a receiver on the shoulder â€" on 20 patients using Diovan, a drug to lower blood pressure, had boosted "compliance" with prescriptions from 30 per cent to 80 per cent after six months.
And finally: "Pfizer's Health Solutions division has developed a system to telephone patients to encourage them to take medicine," the FT notes.

Bonus: Could the next step for drug companies be a version of ED 209 from the movie Robocop? If you don't take your pill, he shows up in your house and gives you 20 seconds to comply. See video.

*Correction: This story incorrectly stated that the shoulder chip was implanted into patients' shoulders. It is not. The shoulder chip is worn as an adhesive patch.