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A boon for better health; or a bitter pill to swallow?

In January, an article in The Economist caught my eye and I’ve been meaning to front page it as a discussion piece.  The article, entitled “Pills Get Smart: Potential Encapsulated” discusses the new technology being explored in the pharmaceutical industry.  What this entails is the embedding of a “smart chip” which will be ingested with the medication and will become a communication device able to send wireless messages.

While the idea of using such technology to ensure that people are getting the treatment they need is a positive (especially the elderly who may live alone and often fall behind on medication regimens) the potential implications are unsettling.

Will people be penalized with higher medical costs / insurance premiums for failing to take their medication?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve forgotten to take my maintenance prescription a time or two.  And who hasn’t been confused by the schedule of some of these newfangled antibiotics?  Can we be “required,” constructively, to take medications we may object to? What are all of the potential abuses of the already mandated system that this will enable?  As noted in the article:

So, what do you think?  Good idea? or just more bad medicine?

92 Responses

  1. Ensign’s amendment is already part of the law – where better health gets you better premiums (see your blood pressure shoots up – so does your premium). So between those two, they’ve got us covered!

  2. my sort of spousal equivalent gets so confused by his medication that he needs me to keep it straight, but he even has me confused. I am afraid there is too much room for abuse. I think your point about higher premiums etc.. is well taken. The damned insurance companies will find any reason not to pay out. I hate them, now they are spying on people with disabilities. This country is in a nightmare of epic proportions when it comes to health care and what do we get from the democrats who have all the power they need to pass anything? We get republican crap health care that protects no one but the insurance companies.

    I am so sick over this whole thing.

    • It’s kinda scary to think you’ll be prescibed a pill that will call someone if you don’t take it. EEEkkk!

      It’s creepy and as the article says, very Orwellian IMHO

      • No way am I ever doing that! I think I may just avoid doctors from now on.

        • hmmm….maybe that’s what they want. Charge you for insurance you’re too afraid to use. It’s genius I tells ya! genius!

  3. Please tell me the smart pill is from The Onion

  4. Imagine this. With all of our medical records being digitalized and made for easy e-access, will employers or potential employers be able to check to see if you take your meds regularly? They can check your credit rating? What’s to say they won’t be given access to this?

    • OMG

    • the credit report thing pisses me off too. There is no reason a future or current employer needs to know your credit history;. It is none of their business. Laws need to be passed and the congress should get on it rather than giving us the nonsense they have been passing.
      Basically we are screwed by corporations today and that is so far from what our early law makers meant to happen.

  5. And so this narc of a pill is gonna squeal you out to the doctors who are busy monitoring it? Those doctors that can’t return phone calls? Those doctors who spend 5 minutes in a room with you giving u info u already got more detailed on the Internet doing yer own research? Those doctors?
    I can see it now…”Oh Dr. Brown, Adam Carter’s insulin is calling for you on line one.”

  6. I imagine a scenario something like this: a doc prescribes a med. You go to the pharmacy and see that, despite your good intentions, your chintzy insurance policy doesn’t cover the med or the cost is prohibitive. You forgo the medicine. Somewhere bells, buzzers, and red flags go off notifying the medicine police that you didn’t pick up that med.

    What about the elderly that cut their pills in half to save money?

    Oh dear. The potential/

    • I say OMG again… And then, under yer scenario, the benevolent gov’t must step in to take care of us and make those hard choices… Yes u need that med and so we’ll just access that bank account of yers for ya fer the necessary funds… Supreme will say “hey that’s okay… It’s like that case we decided where we would confiscate land and turn it over to a private development. Fer society’s best interests”

      • Supreme Court already said it’s ok for a police officer to restrain you and stick a needle in your vein to take blood if they think you’re drunk. Why not this too?

      • OT.. what the Scotus really said was “based on the laws that are on the books now, they can take your land for private development. Better get busy all you states and make better laws”. SCOTUS was right on that ruling, they just didn’t like being right and urged the states to fix their laws.

    • *shivers* How about vitamin tracking devices? They can see if you’re exercising enough and eating junk and suffering from depression, and your federally mandated premiums get jacked.

      • Or they could make you weigh yourself before entering a supermarket. Whoops, they might lose money that way.

    • Higher revenue stream — the chipped pills cannot be cut in any way. So, no paying close to same for double dose and saving money by cutting in half, etc.

      Now, it is marginally or sometimes crucially better to have an exact same dose each time the pill is taken. Other meds, it’s not so important.


  7. Here’s a related piece from a conference discussing the interventions via “smart media” citing partnerships with Google.


    • iPhone doesn’t access that video (read someone didn’t grease their palms enough). But I read part of the transcript… that fellow has a rather creepy way of putting things. Don’t think he understands concept of personal autonomy. Actually he reminds me of an ex of mine, now head of research at a very very very impressive institute of higher Ed (snark- it’s Yale) and I can’t understand six words in a row of the stuff she writes. However, as mentally mental as she is, she always had a fear of butterflies.

  8. This would also seem to eliminate the need for a nurse or aide to monitor and remind their charges about their meds. Technology replacing humans again. Sometimes the only way to get a reluctant elder to allow you access to observe them and their surroundings is to use the administration of their prescriptions as a window, however brief, to see the bigger picture in their total care.

  9. OT, but can anyone explain to me why it is 84 degrees in Boston at 8:30 PM in early April? I hope I can sleep without dragging out a fan.

    • Don’t fight it BB. get out the fan. We had 92 degrees here today and it’s sticky so the fan is on.

    • Gosh I’m glad to see you two!!!

      • {{{waving}}}
        Hi Dak and BB! I’ve been swamped! Last week I went 2 days with about 3 hours of sleep.

        • I worked like a dog all day long today, and last night I was so exhausted I fell asleep at 8:30!

          • This heat doesn’t help it either! It makes you more tired. BTW, hubby got notice it looks like he’ll be laid off in the next week or so. 😦 If the company he works for doesn’t get any new contracts he’s going to be collecting one of those big unemployment checks like 10% of the country.

          • why do people say work like a dog?
            all my dog does is lay around all day

          • LOL!! How true! My two dogs do the same — and look “dog-tired” when they’re doing it.

          • SOD,

            Sorry to hear about Hubby…one of my family members got one in March. I hope things get better soon.

          • SOD, sorry to hear. Hope this doesn’t happen.

          • You’ve had so much on your plate recently! Hope you’re going to have a laid back summer!

    • 92 in DC. Stiiiicky.

    • I had the AC on earlier when it was in the 90s, now I have the fan. In NYC

  10. So that pill has got to cost more money than your average pill of low iq. That’ll help people choosing between food and medication.

  11. That is a really creepy idea which can and will be used for social control of people. I don’t want any part of it.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one. It’s really creepy thinking about ingesting some kind of data chip.

    • More and more creepy things have been happening over the years. We (humanity) are trending in the wrong direction.

  12. Oh lawdy! (h/t to lambert at Corrente)

    Ladies, many of us have lived this nightmare — and it’s as ugly as described:

  13. There’s no way I’m swallowing any tracking chip willingly. The whole idea is grotesque. My puppies have tracker implants because I love them and don’t want them lost forever or picked up by some strange nutbag.

    But “Hello!” I’m a human being. The idea that I would give the pharmaceuticals this kind of power is absurd.

    They need to take this one back to the drawing board. Or better yet, trash it altogether.

    • Not even a good idea for your puppies. Microchips can cause cancerous tumors in dogs.


      My dog had a microchip and she did develop cancer. Don’t know if it was causally related, as the tumor was in the lung, not around the chip.

    • There’s no way I’m swallowing any tracking chip willingly.

      But, what if the only medications they make have chips in them? You know that’s what’s going to happen.

  14. Anyway, that’s it for chips. I will never microchip again.

  15. lose billions of dollars in sales from patients on long-term prescriptions who do not take their pills.

    “lose?” They really should say they don’t make money on patients who don’t buy more pills. But they can’t “lose” money that they haven’t already made. Maybe that’s just hard for greedy Big Pharma to understand. Hey! Put more money into research and less in marketing!

    • Like the billions record companies”lose” when you go to your friends’ houses to listen to music!

    • Wow, they really need to hire better PR people. Who do they have now, Cheney? We don’t care it your health is harmed, but your inability to swallow the damn pills hurts our bottom line. Don’t sugarcoat it.

    • That line is from the writer of the article. But Novartis buys ads in The Economist, so it might as well be their public relations. And since The Economist has a policy of not printing the names of its writers, it’s a win win all around.

      • Yeah, I know it’s from the author, but I’m assuming it was floated by one of the sources. Because if a disinterested writer (even one for The Economist lol) came up with an angle that cold blooded and anti-humanistic all by themselves–oy! 😉

  16. I read about this last week and feel ambivalent about it too. For me there is an almost violent NO WAY. But, for elderly friends (of unspecified relationships) who out of blindness/clumsiness sometimes don’t take pills — well, it would be nice to KNOW they didn’t get their medication. Instead of finding the pills on the floor who-knows-how-long-after….

    So, I don’t know. I really don’t.

    • sometimes the cure is worse than the disease though. Yesterday after my “room mate” had a stent put in to his carotid artery on the right, his doctor told me he had to lie flat for 6 hours. I said it is almost impossible to get Al to cooperate with anything he doesn’t want to do. He told me that I had to make him… HA!
      My attitude is that Al, who is a very stubborn person will one day kill himself by not following doctors orders. But allowing him to live his life as he sees fit is really the only way for him to live.
      the lying flat thing was a minor incident in the series of things Al is not capable of doing. It is much more that he will never sit down and take it easy and one day when he is living alone again (he is IMPOSSIBLE to live with) he may very well have his back go out while he is in the woods and that is where someone will find him
      If forgetting to take his pills means having some one hovering over me minding my business every day, I think I might rather be dead. Al is the same.

  17. If you’ve been feeling a bit scattered today, we know why. We had a giant geomagnetic wallop today:

    Feeling a bit scattered today? Well perhaps you can blame the weather. I’m not talking about spring fever. A blast of solar wind is pummeling Earth’s magnetosphere, sparking the strongest geomagnetic storm so far this year.

    Though it registered a “7” on the 0-to-9 K-index scale of magnetic disturbances, the storm is expected to pass quickly. The silver lining, for those at high-latitudes anyway, is a beautiful show of auroras — the result of high-energy particles from the sun smashing into oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. As the molecules return to normal, they give off energy in the form of photons. The colors in the aurora depend on which atmospheric gas is being revved up by the invading electrons and how much energy is being exchanged. Oxygen emits greenish yellow or red light; Nitrogen generally produces blue.

    The solar storm prompted NOAA to issue a Space Weather Advisory on Monday and gave astronauts aboard the International Space Station something to write home about.

    • Well that explains a lot about today!

    • I knew there was some force at work 😉

    • I’ve been saying for a while that the magnetic field is shifting. It’s my theory for why we’re losing bees and butterflies (they rely heavily on magnetic field for direction). I’ve even noticed geese having formation issues and flying in circles — don’t they also use the magnetic field?

      We’re due for a shift. What the heck, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, exploding volcanoes in Yellowstone — bring on the magnetic field shift.

    • ***The silver lining, for those at high-latitudes anyway, is a beautiful show of auroras — the result of high-energy particles from the sun smashing into oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. As the molecules return to normal, they give off energy in the form of photons. The colors in the aurora depend on which atmospheric gas is being revved up by the invading electrons and how much energy is being exchanged.***

      OK, question for anyone who happens to know. If the atmosphere all over the earth has oxygen and nitrogen in it to get smashed into by high energy particles from the sun, why are the auroras only seen in high latitudes? Why not in lower ones too?

  18. This is flipping ridiculous! My immediate response after the first paragraph was extremely anti. These inefficient patients can get alarms. My grandfather has parkinson’s and keeps a small alarm in his pocket all day that also holds his medication. So far, overall, it works. In other words, other, less violating ways have to exist.

    Furthermore, the idea of negative feedback prompting “better” patients is absurd. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, considering that too many people still ignore the fact that students learn in very diverse ways. Few (if anyone) have come up with an effective way to utilize this awareness in school systems, so why expect anything other than a failing formula from pharmacies in response to human behavior?

    • Yes, I agree.

      Not only that but doctor’s will be able to prescribe medications that may be unnecessary.

      Notice how they can find the technology to make these pills, but not the technology to cure diseases.

  19. Big Pharma is watching you!!

    We have been at war with Obesity. We have always been at war with Obesity.

  20. A lot of drugs HURT you in the long run…ie, kidney disease (I probably was damaged by one I had been on)

    So, they can kill you more effectively if you’re forced to stay on a lot of this crap

    • You are a prospective patient and potential moneymaker from the moment you are born.

      • To be fair there are drugs that do save lives.

        • Yes, you are correct. lol. But I guess I have no trust in people/organizations who have the potential to make money off of others.

  21. It might be helpful if the chip actually called the patient instead of the doctor. After that first splash of coffee hits my stomach in the morning, my phone would ring and say, “don’t even THINK about breakfast until you take your Prilosec.”

  22. OT. Nike is airing a new Tiger ad in which his late father advises him about his cheating. In other words Tiger is making millions from selling Nike to his audience using his dead fathers voice and his sex addiction. Just when I thought he couldn’t sink any lower.

    • Haven’t seen it, but ouch. The point being? Ignore your father to your own economic gain. Nike sells.

      • He’s been disrespectful to his family and to women in general. That’s his personal life which he has every right to look after in private. But when he chooses to thrusts his personal life and brand image at this public audience with these particular Nike ads that he gets paid 30 million a year for, he’s essential using his scandal and his family to turn a profit, and that’s just bad form. That’s not about his golf play and competition. He’s getting bad advice and making horrible decisions right now.

      • Here’s one of the ads. This is not a public service announcemnt. This is a commercial ad for Nike using his late father’s voice. It’s creepy. His father unfortunately also had a reputation for being a philanderer.

  23. creepy… wonder if you can use the conscience clause to not dispense these pills…

  24. Front pagers, you’re all very busy so we who look to your morning round-up must wait. It makes me all the more appreciative of your skills and devotion. Thank you.

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