As technology improves, so do the meanings behind the terms used to describe things. The “smart pill” in today’s news has come a long way from what the smart pill originally started out as. So what is a smart pill?
Smart Pill Defined
A smart pill is generically defined at About.com as: “any pill that can deliver or control its delivery of medicine without the patient having to take action beyond the initial swallow.”1 This definition is what we commonly see used in medicine today. Pills that are controlled-release to systematically administer itself after a given period of time, and pills that continuously release the same amount of medicine until the pill is used up fall under this generic definition of smart pill.
A Different Kind of Smart Pill Invented
Jerome Schentag, a professor of pharmaceutic science at the University of Buffalo, invented the computer-controlled smart pill in the early ’90’s.1 This device is used to electronically track and can administer a drug to a specific location in the gastrointestinal tract.1 This miniature electrical system is actually an instrument inside of a capsule that is about one inch long.1 The capsule can measure pressure in the environment, pH levels, and can monitor the temperature throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract.2
Smart Pill Changes Yet Again
On November 8, 2010, Reuters reports that the pharmaceutical company, Novartis AG, is seeking regulatory approval to sell smart pills that are essentially microchips implanted within a capsule.3 The stomach acid inside of a patient is what actually activates the data chips, which sends information to a patch worn on the patient’s skin.3 The patch then transmits data to a smartphone or internet transmitting device.3 The initial application of this technology is to better monitor transplant patients that have received an organ and to ensure the right dosage of medicine is being taken by the patient.3 By keeping a close watch on a transplant patient, the doctor can be better informed and understand why a patient’s body is rejecting an organ or successfully healing from this surgery.
Technology is constantly changing the world around us. By understanding the history, we can better grasp how far we have come and where technology is taking us. Smart pills are continuing to revolutionize today’s modern medicine as this technology improves. Now it is up to the professionals to utilize this new tool to help people.
1Mary Bellis. History of the Smart Pill. Inventors.About.com.
2SmartPill: Get the Facts. SmartPill.com.
3Ben Hirschler. Look out, your medicine is watching you. Reuters.