Texting Pill: How Does ‘Digital’ Medication Send Messages From Your Stomach?

By Philip Ross on September 2, 2013 8:24 PM EDT

texting pills
The texting pill, activated by stomach acid, sends a signal from inside a person’s belly alerting a doctor or relative that the medicine has been taken. (Photo: Flickr/e-Magine Art)

Take the blue pill to wake up, the red pill to discover the secrets of "The Matrix," and the texting pill if you want to send messages from your stomach. You read correctly: Scientists have engineered a "digital pill" that can transmit messages from a patient's stomach to her doctor or relatives via text or email.

According to The Telegraph, the texting pills are taken with a patient's regular pills and send messages to a receiver outside the body letting a doctor or relative know when the pill has hit the stomach. The sensors are about the size of a grain of sand, and contain magnesium and copper which create an electric circuit when doused in stomach acid.

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The point of the texting pills? Mainly, to make sure patients are taking their medication.

"Elderly people sometimes have to take six, seven or eight pills a day," Professor Lionel Tarassenko of Oxford University's Institute of Biomedical Engineering told The Telegraph. "But if someone doesn't take their pills, that can be a very, very serious thing. If you have an elderly parent who is not taking their pills, you might want to know."

Another benefit of the texting pills is they could cut back on the amount of medicines that go to waste. The Daily Mail reports that the digital pills, developed by U.S. firm Proteus Digital Health, might save the NHS millions of dollars worth of wasted pills by alerting physicians if their patients aren't taking their meds.

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