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Novartis Close to Producing Smart Sensor Pill

Multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis declared it is closing in on producing a pill that once ingested relays patient health parameters as well as its own effect on the patient's body.

Novartis spent $24m on exclusive worldwide rights to the sensor-based technology, developed by Proteus Biomedical, based in California, US.

The concept of swallowing microchip-embedded pills that are activated by stomach acid to transmit data isn't entirely new. Speaking at the Reuters’ Health Summit, Trevor Mundel, global head of development at Novartis, said the aim of the technology is to ensure patients “take drugs at the right time and get the dose they need.”

The silicon and metal sensor sends data via a faint radio signal to a patch on the patient's skin, will then transmits the information wirelessly to a designated Smartphone, e-mail account on a doctor’s computer etc., is first being studied in a drug for transplant patients that helps avoid organ rejection. Since the drug itself is already approved and established, Novartis might be able to forgo clinical trials and simply conduct bioequivalence tests to show the second-gen pills have the same effect as the originals. (The main difference being that the patient now has a microchip to pass.)

Once the sensor-based technology is regulatory approved, the ‘smart-pill’ platform will be transferrable to different drugs, Mundel said future ‘smart-pill’ variants will gather more advanced data, such as a patient’s heart rate, temperature and body movement, to ensure a drug is working effectively.

Proteus CEO, Andrew Thompson said,We have a great opportunity to bring together a new type of pharmaceutical product to market that could aid patients, their families and physicians to attain maximum adherence with pharmaceutical therapy.”

Rival firm Philips is proactively competing with the Novartis smart chip still by actively bringing forward its IntelliCap technology, which was first showcased in 2008. Jeff Shimizu, CTO and R&D manager at Philips Research, told in-Pharma Technologist that the Dutch powerhouse is now positioning its system as a “unique R&D tool for the targeted delivery of pharmaceutical drugs and biologics.”

Given these developments smart pills seem to be the answer to high costs arising from operation and maintenance of expensive monitoring gadgetry involved in medical care of critical patients.

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