Edible microchips could monitor UK patients' temperature and heart rate

Edible microchips could be used to monitor UK patients' temperature and heart rate, after a high street pharmacy signed up to market the devices later this year.

Helius edible pills monitor patients’ reaction to treatments (Photograph: Proteus Biomedical)
Helius edible pills monitor patients’ reaction to treatments (Photograph: Proteus Biomedical)

Lloyds Pharmacy plans to start selling Helius pills, developed by US company Proteus Biomedical, in September 2012.

Helius pills monitor patients’ reaction to treatments, and send the information to their mobile phone or computer.

Helius contains a soluble microchip, which patients take alongside their usual medicine.

It reacts with the stomach acid and gives off an electrical pulse, which is received by an adhesive patch on the patient’s body. Data about heart rate, respiration and temperature are then sent to the patient’s mobile phone or computer.

Lloyds Pharmacy’s business development director, Chris Frost, said the UK could be the first country to adopt the technology.

‘Until now, the pills have only been used in trial scenarios in the US,’ he said. ‘The UK could be the first live customer experience.’

Patients will pay around £50 a month for the service. Lloyds Pharmacy’s healthcare services director, Steve Gray, told the Financial Times that several NHS providers had expressed an interest in the technology.

In the UK, an estimated £396m of NHS money is wasted on unused medicine every year.  

Mr Gray said Helius would help eliminate this waste by monitoring whether patients have remembered to take their medication.

‘Anyone taking several medications knows how easy it can be to lose track of whether or not you’ve taken the correct tablets that day,’ he said. 

‘You can appreciate the benefits of an information service that helps patients get the most from their treatments,’ he added.  

Lloyds Pharmacy said patients will have complete control over what happens with the information. ‘These are ultimately medical records, so they must stay completely private,’ Mr Frost said.

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