When people don’t take their drugs as recommended, it’s a big deal. According to the research, people who refuse to take their pills—an issue is known as the non adherence or non compliance—cost the American healthcare system up to $289 billion per year and account for nearly 10% of the hospitalizations.
“Without exaggerating, a lot of people see this as a big public health problem,” says Niteesh Choudhry, a Harvard Medical School physician and the expert on the topic. According to Choudhry, the patients’ common explanation for not taking their medications is: Forgetfulness is a state of mind.
The Several firms have unveiled intelligent pill bottles to attempt to address this problem in the last decade, and the most recent on the scene is Pillsy, a Bluetooth enabled bottle cap that was released on Tuesday. Pillsy, like its ancestors, can see when you open and close the lid because it can tell whether you’ve taken your medicine. It connects to an app that provides alerts when it’s time to take a pill, and it will deliver a text message or call if a patient doesn’t respond to the initial warning. When it’s time to medicate, the lid, which matches either a regular prescription or vitamin bottle, blinks an LED and makes a lot of noise.
Sure, you could cheat the machine by opening and closing the cap without swallowing the drug, but that’s not the point, according to Jeff LeBrun, the CEO and co founder of Pillsy. It’s about people who “try to take their prescription but are having a hard time.” Users may also opt to share their prescription details with a caregiver, such as a child of an older adult receiving a warning if Mom or Dad doesn’t take their medication.
Another issue Pillsy is attempting to address is unintended double dosing: A consumer will search the app to see whether they’ve taken their pill (as determined by whether or not the cap was opened); if they do so without taking it once, they’ll get a message.
Don’t forget to remember.
Choudhry of Harvard Medical School recently performed a study involving tens of thousands of people who take the prescriptions on a daily basis for conditions such as the hypertension or the depression to learn more about whether alert systems would help people remember to take their medications. The researchers used refill histories as a proxy to find people who hadn’t been taking their medications as prescribed.
The aim of the study was to see if a simple reminder device could help people to stick to their drug regimens. Any participants received one of three low-tech alert devices: a pill box with the compartments lettered by weekday, a bottle cap with a built-in optical timer, or a gadget with the toggles that people slid back and forth to indicate whether or not they had taken a pill.
What were the outcomes? According to the researchers, there was no statistical distinction between the control group, which received nothing in the mail, and either of the groups that received the reminder units. On the other hand, Choudhry does not entirely the discount the role of technology in this area.
“I believe that technology will invariably play a role in solving this problem,” he says. “However, technology is not a true and systematic approach in and of itself.”
AdhereTech users are, on average, 70 years old. In the world of drug monitoring and alerts, AdhereTech Pillsy isn’t alone.
AdhereTech, a similar app, is a smart pill bottle that does not require a smartphone and is not a direct to the consumer device. According to Josh Stein, the company’s CEO and cofounder, AdhereTech customers are on average 70 years old. AdhereTech collaborates with pharmaceutical firms that develop drugs to cure diseases like cancer and HIV. AdhereTech notifies the pharmacy that filled the prescriptions if someone misses a dose (which the bottle decides from whether or not it has been opened; it also has another sensor that checks the bottle’s contents) but does not take it until being reminded.
Vitality GlowCap and SMRxT are two such smart bottle solutions.
Finally, there are a variety of reminder solutions available, ranging from basic to high-tech. However, Choudhry claims that the test results for them are still in the lab, metaphorically speaking. He said, “We’re really looking for proof that all of these really work.”
A similar concern is that consumer-purchased products will appeal to those who need the most minor assistance: they “attract individuals who, on any level, may be the least likely to need them,” Choudhry says. “They’re the most inspired, committed, and tech-savvy people I’ve ever met.”
So, while a service like Pillsy can be beneficial to the individual who purchases it, it isn’t a cure-all for the underlying problem. He said, “We need to find ways that will reach all and are broadly scalable.”
Pillsy’s LeBrun says they’re “passionate about wanting to fix the overall situation,” with forgetfulness being the main issue they’re addressing. Pillsy is seen as a medication-taking “personal trainer” by them.
It’s as bad as a heart attack.
Except in the most severe cases of heart attacks, Erica Spatz, a cardiologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, notes that many too many patients don’t take any of their prescriptions afterward. “At least 20% of people aren’t taking any of their heart medications,” she claims.
However, according to Spatz, the problem extends beyond people forgetting to take their medications. “It’s very complicated why people don’t take their medication,” she adds. Sure, forgetting is a problem, but it’s not the only one.
“We won’t ever understand that [patients] didn’t take their prescriptions] until we start sitting down with them and talking about it,” she adds.
Worry about expense or even fear of what regular medicine could do to the body, mainly if the ‘script is for a chronic medical condition like high blood pressure, are some of the reasons. “The causes are numerous, and they are complicated,” she notes.