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Internal sensor could help physicians track patients' health
08.02.2012On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval of an ingestible health sensor that monitors a person's medication intake and vitals. The new device could allow physicians to keep an eye on any patients managing a chronic disease and spot a problem before it warrants emergency medicine.
"The FDA validation represents a major milestone in digital medicine. Directly digitizing pills, for the first time, in conjunction with our wireless infrastructure, may prove to be the new standard for influencing medication adherence and significantly aid chronic disease management," said Eric Topol, health technology expert and genomics professor at the Scripps Research Institute.
In a follow up interview with Nature, Topol added, "It's like Big Brother watching you take your medicine."
The gadget, which has been on the market in Europe under the name The Ingestion Event Marker for some time, can be put in a pill capsule or just swallowed as it is. Nature reported that it's made of silicon, and includes very small quantities of magnesium and copper.
Using a power source that activates when it touches water, it sends out a signal to identify what's been ingested and when a substance enters the body. It also records heart rate, body position, and activity level of the person. The device's findings are sent to a patch worn on the skin, which relays them to a mobile device. If individuals agree to share this information, emergency department physicians, attending physicians and other healthcare professionals can track the patient's status remotely.
Nature also spoke with George Savage, co-founder and chief medical officer at Proteus Digital Health, the company that makes the internal tracker.
"The point is not for doctors to castigate people, but to understand how people are responding to their treatments. This way, doctors can prescribe a different dose or a different medicine if they learn that it's not being taken appropriately," he told the news source.
The FDA only ran tests determining if the product was safe to take with placebos, not necessarily regular drugs. But Savage said his organization's long-term plan is to get FDA approval to combine their product with drugs for tuberculosis, diabetes, and other long-term chronic diseases, according to Nature.
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New research shows that magnesium may be just as effective as calcium in boosting bone health.