Smart pill bottle which reminds patients to take drugs '100% reliable'

Smart pill bottle connected to a mobile app that reminds patients to take their medication is ‘100% reliable’, tests show

  • Pill Connect opens at a pre-set time and records if patient takes their medication
  • Sends reminders if they haven’t and information passed to database for doctors 
  • Small trial of 10 people in Manchester found it worked correctly 100% of the time
  • Clinical trials due to be carried out next year on patients with chronic illnesses

A smart pill bottle that automatically dispenses tablets at a set time is 100 per cent reliable, according to a trial of NHS patients.

The Pill Connect device opens at a pre-set time, records if the patient has taken their medication and sends them reminders if they haven’t. 

It looks like any other pill bottle but the gadget’s dispensing slot in the childproof lid is controlled by a mobile phone app. 

When the correct time to take a drug arrives, the patient responds to a reminder on the app, which triggers the dispensing slot to open.

They then tilt the bottle upside down and a pill or two, depending on the dose, is dispensed.  

It was found to work correctly 100 per cent of the time in a study of eight healthy volunteers at Manchester Royal Infirmary, according to its makers Elucid Health.

Pill Connect – a smart pill bottle that automatically dispenses tablets at a set time (pictured) -has shown to be 100 per cent reliable in a small trial 

A dispensing slot in the childproof lid is controlled by an app on a mobile phone (shown) and is set to open at a certain time of day 

The gadget was subjected to previous trials, in which it worked nine out of ten times on average. It has not been tested with real medication – only placebos.

But its developers have spent months tweaking the bottle using those results to iron out some technical issues. 

The success of the most recent trial will pave the way for larger studies next year, involving 200 patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, or who are taking anti-rejection medication following a transplant.

It is hoped the reusable unit, which will cost around £25 when launched, can then be used in drug trials and for medication prescribed by doctors. 

Other systems have been trialled to improve non-adherence — for example, sending text reminders.

But unlike with Pill Connect, there is no way to then check if patients have taken the medication.

The smart pill bottle uses an app that records that the dose has been taken and sends this data  to a central database (shown on laptop) for doctors to assess. If a dose continues to be missed after a certain length of time. A call can then be made to the patient

Forgetting daily blood pressure tablets dramatically increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and death 

Forgetting to take blood pressure tablets could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke by 40 per cent, a 2013 study by the University of Glasgow found.

High blood pressure affects a third of adults and, if left untreated, greatly raises the chances of heart attacks, strokes and other potentially fatal conditions. 

Experts are warning that long-term variation in blood pressure – over months or years – can increase the risk of early death by 35 per cent, while the chances of a stroke or heart attack increase by 42 per cent compared to those with stable readings.

Patients taking their medication irregularly is one of the main reasons why blood pressure may swing dramatically. Even if their average readings remain below recommended limits, they remain at risk if they have wildly variable readings, the study found. 

Lead researcher Dr Sandosh Padmanabhan from the University of Glasgow said: ‘Blood pressure is inherently variable and will fluctuate due to a complex interaction of various factors.

The smart pill bottle uses an app that records that the dose has been taken out and then locks the bottle until the next one is due, reducing the risk of accidental overdose. This data is sent to a central database. 

The app will sound a reminder to the patient if a dose is missed or has not been taken after a certain length of time. 

Information can also be sent from the central database, such as by email, to notify their doctor if the patient continues to miss their dose. A call can then be made to the patient.

About half of patients are thought not to take prescribed medicines as directed, and this can have major ramifications.

A 2013 study in the British Medical Journal found patients who do not take blood pressure medication as recommended have an almost four-fold increased risk of dying from a stroke.

Another 2013 study, from Aston University, found this can cost the NHS in excess of £500million in extra care such as hospital visits, since not taking medication as directed can lead to a deterioration in health.

People commonly miss a dose or take it at the wrong time. This so-called non-adherence also affects the outcome of drug trials, as the benefits and side-effects may not be as accurately measured.

It’s hoped the smart bottle, Pill Connect, could help on both counts. The information sent to the data bank can be viewed by a doctor — or by scientists running a trial.   

Simon Maxwell, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Mail in June: ‘Non-adherence is a very important topic — in my field, hypertension, it is the most common cause of not being able to manage the condition properly, so anything that helps with this has to be welcomed.

‘One of the causes of non-adherence is when doctors aren’t able, due to time pressures, to fully explain the benefits of the medication they are prescribing, and this won’t help with that. But I think there are a lot more pluses than drawbacks.’ 

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