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Medicine Science

Edible "Intelligent Pills" 105

Ian Lamont sends along a brief note from the Industry Standard about "intelligent" pills that can help doctors record information about drug dosages, heart rate, respiratory rate, and other metrics. The pills, being developed by Proteus Biomedicals, have "digestible sensors" made out of food products and are activated by stomach fluids. A receiver that is similar to a skin patch picks up the data and can be passed on to a 3G mobile network, and from there to hospitals or doctors' offices. According to the Proteus site, the sensors cost a few cents per pill. The devices, currently in clinical trials, made #8 on Wired's list of the top technology breakthroughs of 2008.
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Edible "Intelligent Pills"

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  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @06:57PM (#26538147) Homepage

    Wake me when they have edible intelligence pills.

  • Pills that cost a few cents, tied to a relatively expensive device that needs expensive airtime.
    Not the cleverest plan, especially if you want to bring this to the masses.

    • I'm also confused. Why's everything got to be a phone app these days? Why does my sniper rifle need an ipod? Why's my doctor have to use his blackberry to tell me if I have the clap? Why can I use my phone when the plane is on the ground but not a calculator? ...I guess that last one really didn't have much to do with what I was whining about, but 3 examples just seems better than 2.

      • Why does my sniper rifle need an ipod?

        Why's my doctor have to use his blackberry to tell me if I have the clap?

        Why not? If somebody wants to produce it, and somebody else thinks it's worth paying for, why not?

        • by genner ( 694963 )

          Why does my sniper rifle need an ipod?

          Why's my doctor have to use his blackberry to tell me if I have the clap?

          Why not? If somebody wants to produce it, and somebody else thinks it's worth paying for, why not?

          Because it's an abomnation unto the lord.

    • cost is your main concern? I don't think your spleen is going to be doing much texting anyway. I'd be concerned about point blank cell phone band radiation. If living under a cell tower gives you cancer and putting the cell phone an inch from your brain maybe causes cancer, what's it going to do when it's touching your tissue? In fact, a year or two ago they had a story on wireless chips inside pets having a ridiculously high cancer rate in the surrounding tissue because of the point blank wireless sign
    • by kklein ( 900361 )

      Yeah, progress in the merging of new and existing technology to better and lengthen lives is stupid.

  • What happens when bugs in the software mess this up? In most fields, the computer is always right. And honestly, I don't want the data to be messed up that could cost someone their life.
    • Re:Problems... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Swizec ( 978239 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:10PM (#26538331) Homepage
      Oh you mean like when the computer displayin MRI imagery screws up? Or the computer talking between the hospital and your insurance policy? Or the computer doing traffic lights? Or the computer running your car? Or the computer reading radar data for an air control tower?

      Seriously, there ARE other companies out there making software that are not diebold and can make something as simple as a counter ... hell, they can probably make the complex stuff work too since it's obviously worked rather well in the past.
      • Add to this the fact you'd be able to swallow multiple of the same type of pill to ensure the results are correct and you have a decent system.

        No system is 100% failsafe, computerised or not. I really wish these luddites would stop posting on slashdot, it kind of goes against your philosophies.

        You know, what if what you type is malformed into something that deteriorates your character?

  • Security? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jabbrwokk ( 1015725 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nitnekraw.j.tnarg)> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @06:59PM (#26538185) Homepage Journal

    can be passed on to a 3G mobile network

    So... how secure is this? I can't imagine anyone other than my doctor (and not even him, probably) are that interested in my biometrics, but I am not comfortable with the information being broadcast over a network.

    The summary links to a stub which links to the actual article, [] which describes how the network-enabled system could be used:

    Caregivers or relatives will know when and what pills patients have taken or if the patients failed to take their medications.

    So you can watch Grandma forget to take her pills - in real time!

    • by Snaller ( 147050 )

      "So... how secure is this? I can't imagine anyone other than my doctor (and not even him, probably) are that interested in my biometrics, but I am not comfortable with the information being broadcast over a network. "

      But how else would skynet manipulate with your medicines in order to kill you so you wont start a revolution against it in the future?

    • by CompMD ( 522020 )

      Just try snarfing and decrypting CDMA data. Good luck with that.

  • by gd23ka ( 324741 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:07PM (#26538283) Homepage

    Oh this is going to be a boon to compliance monitoring. With that kind of 24/7 monitoring
    it becomes easy to really lock down a person's life. All kinds of monitoring comes to mind,
    from drug use to the absence of using prescribed medications, ingestion of approved or
    unapproved foods or even 'unapproved' activities say that raise heartbeat or blood pressure
    or again the lack of activities.

    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @09:22PM (#26540045) Journal

      Oh this is going to be a boon to compliance monitoring. With that kind of 24/7 monitoring
      it becomes easy to really lock down a person's life.

      boon to compliance monitoring != an increase in compliance.

      Visit 1.
      Doctor: Patient, you need to do A,B,C
      Patient: Doctor, I understand that I need to do A,B,C
      Reality: XY% of patients do whatever they want

      Visit 2.
      Doctor: The tests show that you aren't making as much progress as you should be.
      Patient: I know, [endless list of excuses] is why I haven't.

      The only way to lock down a person's life is to literally lock it down.
      That's why everyone who can afford it does in-patient therapy/rehab/weight loss (or gain)/etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Muad'Dave ( 255648 )
        It does if the pill, on its way out, releases Habanero juice into your guts if it detects that you've been a bad boy and not taken your meds.
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:07PM (#26538291) Journal

    Anyone else reading the article think "Hot damn! Now I'll be able to do that PhD, get laid, get rich and retire in 5 years. I just have to pop lots of pills"? Sometimes reading the article (or even the summary in this case) can be a real bummer. I should've known better.

    • I know you're joking, but wanted to allay a common misconception.

      A Ph. D. doesn't work that way, and however helpful intelligence might be to getting one, it isn't sufficient alone. You also need a large degree of tolerance for absurdity. Actually, I've found Ph. D. comics [] to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the sort of stuff that goes on in grad. school and academia.

      • by syousef ( 465911 )

        A Ph. D. doesn't work that way, and however helpful intelligence might be to getting one, it isn't sufficient alone. You also need a large degree of tolerance for absurdity.

        I know. I have a Masters. Part of me wonders if I'll regret never having gone for a PhD. However I could never tolerate the BS and it would be a hellish few years of my life with next to no a way it's too late for me anyway. I 33, married, and have a 5 month old. If I were going to get a PhD. I should have done it by now, befor

      • add to that a tolerance for vindictive assholery too... or the willingness to out asshole the guy(s) with power over you...

        And the ability/willingness to choke back the truth when it tries to escape your throat... hardest thing I ever had to do as a Ph.D. student was not tell one of my committee members how frigging stupid he was when he asked a question that was answered by the previous 10 minutes of explanation in my defence... sort of like:

        me: and so if you put hot air in the balloon it expands and
  • by Mesa MIke ( 1193721 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:14PM (#26538377) Homepage

    ..rabbit shit!"

    "See, you're getting smarter already!"

  • by ItsJustAPseudonym ( 1259172 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:14PM (#26538381)

    Proteus ingestible event markers (IEMs) are tiny, digestible sensors made from food ingredients, which are activated by stomach fluids after swallowing.

    The IEM is manufactured on silicon wafers...

    Last I checked, humans cannot digest silicon, so this thing is not entirely "made from food ingredients".
    Also, I would have been mighty surprised if food ingredients could transmit digital signals.

    • "Manufactured on" doesn't mean "manufactured out of" so I think you may be jumping to conclusions. The silicon may just form a working surface for the manufacturing process.

      • Maybe, but why would they use silicon at all, then? If they can do the DSP using food-based circuits, then they would not need silicon.
        I would definitely like to see more detail from them.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:16PM (#26538419)

    Fry: I can't swallow that!
    Farnsworth: Well then, good news! It's a suppository.

    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      Yeah, as reference humor, IMO this situation calls more for a rephrasing of the line thus:

      Subject: Edible "Intelligent Pills"

      Good news! It's not a suppository!

      and waiting for someone to claim "edible pill" was redundant and posting it as a reply to that. But you've pulled the trigger on that joke.

      Instead now I'll have to find an opportunity to compare "Intelligent Pills" to to "Intelligent Deuterium Ore". Oh, I just did. Well, crap.

  • Once this is combined with Dr Schlock's inflatable technology, Zuul will be unleashed as a giant intelligent edible marshmallow.

  • by JumpDrive ( 1437895 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:23PM (#26538523)
    And all this time the aliens have been probing my ass, when all's they had to do is make me swallow a pill.
    Those bastards.
  • Thom Yorke: Do you take those... those intelligence drugs?

    SG: I don't need intelligent drugs, Thom, because I don't know what they are. But I will put anything into my mouth that's offered to me, whether it's meant to go there or not! Because... I'm different.

    Thom Yorke (laughing): It's because your weird!

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:37PM (#26538697)

    ... to mix these intelligence pills with booze? That way we could break even.

  • Smart pills? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

    Ah! These are the opposite of the stupid pills Mr. Potato head spoke of. Interesting.

  • by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:52PM (#26538865)

    Nit pick, but suppositories not withstanding, most pills are edible...

    Actually, most suppositories are probably edible... but I digest...errr... digress ;-)

  • 2 cents to make... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jazcap ( 1125477 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:58PM (#26538943)
    200 bucks to buy. That's what I have trouble digesting.
    • 2 cents to make... marginal cost.

      Fixed costs (product development, research, testing, manufacturing equipment, etc) are far higher unless they are selling millions of the pills.

      I know, pharma costs are super high, and the sales/marketing expense side is just disgusting... but it's really annoying when people look at the marginal cost to produce a good and forget that the retail price is influenced by other costs as well.

      Given time, and a mature product and market, perhaps wholesale price will come down
      • by jazcap ( 1125477 )
        The marginal costs to produce pharmaceuticals are significant, and often unpredictable. This is especially true of R&D. And drug companies are entitled to recoup those costs, as well as make a reasonable profit. But are they entitled to make a *disgusting* profit? On a product that literally means life or death to the consumer? The pharmaceutical industry is consistently among the most profitable in the world. In several years during this past decade, they have been *the* most profitable. Is this mora
        • by djp928 ( 516044 )

          They are "entitled" to make exactly as much profit as the market will bear.

          • by jazcap ( 1125477 )
            Ah, yes, the beloved 'free market'.

            When a free market works against the public good, that market should be regulated. Examples where such control already exists, by one mechanism or another: corporate monopoly, price gouging in times of emergency, the length of the work week for wage earners, the cost of commuting by rail, the price of electricity.

            Admittedly, market controls are difficult to implement, and should be used with caution. But just because things are a certain way, doesn't mean they can't
  • from wikipedia...

    "All members of society are conditioned in childhood to hold the values that the World State idealizes. Constant consumption is the bedrock of stability for the World State. Everyone is encouraged to consume the ubiquitous drug, soma. Soma is a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free "vacations"."

  • the phrase, "Take two of these and call me in the morning."

  • Got to be pretty dumb to swallow that one.

  • should call them "Mentats."
  • I would prefer the Blue one. Thanks.
  • Pain meds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by agwis ( 690872 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:53AM (#26543115)

    I imagine this is not good news for a number of reasons...but one I can think of personally is pain medication users. Doctors nowadays are hesitant to prescribe schedule II meds because it is closely monitored and there are numerous cases where they have been reprimanded because of it, if not outright losing their licenses and possibly even facing criminal charges.

    Chronic pain sufferers that have sought relief from strong meds inevitably build up tolerance to them, and in turn need to take more to achieve the same effect. Many Doctors assume addiction or worse, that patients are selling their meds (because of the high price they can get on the streets for them) when confronted with requests for higher dosages or quantities. Usually at this point, they try to pawn their patients off to pain clinics (which isn't generally a bad thing), refuse the request, or cut the patient off entirely. Either they don't understand titration or they just don't want to have patients who consume large quantities of pain meds to get the relief they need. Apparently certain types of drugs are monitored and one patient that has a high tolerance can affect the Doctors prescribing ratio, sending a red flag that he needs to be watched more closely. Because of this, many patients subsidize their prescribed drugs with street drugs to achieve the relief they need in order to maintain a decent quality of life. Illegal? Yes. Necessary? Sadly, in more cases than people realize.

    I've seen where Doctors have forced patients to sign contracts with all kinds of stipulations...the consequence of any being broken that they would be immediately cut off and labelled a 'drug seeker'. When this happens, good luck to them getting prescriptions elsewhere. Surely if these 'reporting' pills are cost effective and won't be long before most Doctors are requiring all pain patients to use them. Whether it's a lack of trust or not in the Doctor/patient relationship...they need to protect their livelihood and this may end up being the best method.

    • by jazcap ( 1125477 )
      Perhaps this technology could be used to produce the opposite effect.

      A doctor could know the amount of pain medication a patient was *actually* taking (as opposed to selling on the street, etc.). Also, the doctor would have a record of this usage, to provide CYA.

      The new pills could also provide protection against unscrupulous or incompetent "Dr Feelgoods" who are creating and supplying patients addicted to anti-anxiety medications.
  • Poo bots? Hiiideee ho!

  • Heck, why don't they just put these intelligent pills in the meds, thereby creating a mandatory monitoring system if you take a prescription drug? If they're so cheap it won't impact the cost of the meds significantly. Since we'll all be on federal welfare health care soon; this, I'm sure, will be on the top of the to-do list. (Referring to US health care of course. All you other suckers around the world are already screwed with national healthcare.)

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.