by Christina Sarich, Natural Society
Big Pharma is spending like never before to make sure patients take their drugs. Investors recently committed $172 million for “smart pills” being developed jointly by Proteus Digital Health and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. After a pill is swallowed, a microscopic device within the pill relays ‘health data’ to a patch worn by the patient, then to a smartphone, and then (if the patient wishes) to doctors and/or pharmaceutical companies.
Likewise, an inhaler for patients with lung diseases to record the date and time of every use is being developed by mobile chip giant Qualcomm with heavy investment from Novartis, which runs research and development in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Drug makers lose billions annually when patients don’t fill, refill, or take their prescriptions. So, besides developing smart pills and smart inhalers that tell whether meds have or haven’t been taken, Big Pharma is also finding other ways to ‘nag’ patients into taking every pill their doctors prescribe.
Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk works with HealthPrize to reward ‘drug-adherent’ patients with gift cards or charitable donations to their favorite 501(c)3. There are also smart phone apps that remind people to take their pills, talking engagements to teach people how to take their meds properly, and even payment programs to patients willing to tout drugs personally. Biogen, e.g., pays patients to talk about positive experiences with the company’s MS drug Tecfidera.
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