"Tattletale pills" that keep track of when their people are taking them are moving a step closer to reality. Swiss biotech firm Novartis AG plans to seek regulatory approval for a pill with a tiny embedded microchip that can transmit data to smartphones or over the Internet to doctors. The chips, which are activated by stomach acid, will initially be used to check that patients have taken the right dose of medication at the right time, says the firm. Novartis hopes later models will be able to collect biometric information to check that the pills are working properly.
Since the pills will be added to existing drugs, company officials don't expect to have to carry out clinical trials, although regulators have expressed concern over how the data transmitted from inside patients' bodies will be protected. "The regulators all like the concept and have been very encouraging," a Novartis exec tells Reuters. But "they want to understand how we are going to solve the data privacy issues." (Another pill, however, may be on the way out. Click here for that story.)