back to article Internet of pills plan calls for drugs to tell you when to take them

E-Ink, best known as a maker of e-reader screens, has teamed up with healthcare tech services outfit HTC Healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging specialist Palladio Group to design dynamic labels for medicines. The three have cooked up an idea whereby patients load an app onto their phones and input data about what medicines …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    FAIL

    Pharma hack possibilities?

    "Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill the whole bottle of stress pills, and think things over. "

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    But

    I am currently on 5 different pills a day. In well over five years I've yet to be given any in a bottle, they're always in hygenic 'pop' sheets. Are they going to put e-ink labels on the cardboard containers cheaper than a printed sticky label?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But

      I think it depends on your pharmacy and their supplier(s). Often my prescriptions are filled in small bottles (sometimes the child-proof cap kind); or if in the sheet form, the pharmacist might cut the sheet to meet the number of tablets. They're not always in the branded box either, but plain white card box, with a printed name and dosage sticker on it.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: But

      Yep, I can't remember the last time I saw pills in a bottle or tub, Blister packs all the way for quite some years now.

      Also, this automatic re-ordering system. That'll send a message to my doctor who needs to authorise the prescription, right? Well, at the moment, I can't get an account to access my doctors records and do online appoinment booking because I don'y have any photo ID to prove who I am so how can a 3rd party do that for me?

      Of course, I could pay for a passport which I don't otherwise need and get my doctor to sign the application form to prove I am who I say I am so I can get a passport to prove to the doctor that I am who I say I am to get online access to my doctors systems.

      Icon----------> My head.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Alternatively...

    ... one of these tablet holder things will do for a one-off non-recurring cost of under two of your English pounds. You don't even need to charge your medicine bottles to use it.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Alternatively...

      Between that, and clear instructions from the doctor carried over onto the dispensing labels stuck on by pharmacy I reckon it's covered.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Alternatively...

        Not quite as easy as labels. When your, say a cancer patient, on a 1/2 dozen meds, all taken at completely different times, it can be a bit overwhelming.

        However this e-ink thing is pointless. The app on it's own makes more sense!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively...

          "The app on it's own makes more sense!"

          Although for the app to "talk" to the e-ink labels, and with IPv6 still somewhere over the event horizon for most users, the app will have to talk to the labels via the 3rd party server and spaff some extremely personal and valuable data at the app supplier. Yayyy! Trebles all round!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternatively...

      The layout of the box is too proscribed - assuming 2 times per day in a week. Even my modest pill popping requires three daily slots. It is also apparently passive when it comes to reminders.

      It needs the compartments to have configurable timing and actively nag when it is pill time. For "on demand" pills like pain killers it needs to be aware of a minimum repeat period.

  4. Diogenes

    And my pill packets live in my cupboard

    so of absolutely no use to me

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: And my pill packets live in my cupboard

      Exactly. If I'm looking at the packet, I don't need to be reminded. If I'm not looking at the packet, I won't see the reminder.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What will these IoT idiots think up next?

    1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      E-ink toilet paper to remind you to wipe your ass.

  6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Applause

    A grand applause to whoever did the caption for that picture. Nicely summarizes what will happen if Big Pharma joins forces with the likes of Google on the IoT front.

  7. GlenP Silver badge
    FAIL

    Definitely a solution looking for a problem.

    My tablets come packed as strips in boxes, when I open a new box it gets chucked in the recycling.

  8. jake Silver badge

    The applications are infinite!

    E-Ink on my beer bottle to remind me to get another when the first is empty!

    E-Ink on my deck to remind me when it's time to stain it!

    E-Ink on my car to remind me to wax it!

    E-Ink on my batteries to remind me to recharge them!

    E-Ink on my pet's food & water bowls to remind me to refill them!

    E-Ink on my checkbook to remind me to order more cheques!

    E-Ink on my pocket to remind me to not forget my wallet!

    Gawd/ess! The options are endless! I must have this!

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: The applications are infinite!

      "E-Ink on my pet's food & water bowls to remind me to refill them!"

      Now there's a pointless idea if ever there was one! My two cats already let me know when their food and water bowls need refilling, far more effectively than any app ever could short of equipping mobile phones with protractable claws...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The applications are infinite!

      "E-Ink on my checkbook to remind me to order more cheques!"

      A fake label will do just as well in that case. Really? You still use cheques often enough to need to re-order a new book? I vaguely seem to recall writing a cheque 5 or 6 years ago and a few weeks later a new cheque book arrived in the post with a covering letter from my bank telling me that cheques from cheque books over 5 years old may have issues clearing due to fraud prevention measure and to please destroy the old book and use the new one for any further transactions. That means the "new" cheque book is now past its sell-by date and oddly enough, I wrote a cheque the other weeks. I expect I'll get a new book soon and another letter :-)

  9. andreas koch
    Meh

    patient engagement . . .

    8<-------------------------------

    whereby patients load an app onto their phones and input data about what medicines they are expected to take, and when they should take them.

    8<-------------------------------

    "Ok, thiss is , llet's see, err, 'Sinemet'; nnow whherre do I, oh herre, dose and freqquwncy:

    Takke 22, 33 times a day. Done.

    Can't go wrong.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Repeating any action every day means that you can easily forget if you have done the recent one - if at the time you are busy thinking about something else. It's called "autopilot". Brushed all your teeth? Locked the front door? Locked the car? Fed the cat? Switched off all the lights?

    The ideal pill dispenser would have a persistent audible/visual alert and a way to know that the required pill has been removed. Pills would only register on very sensitive weighing sensors - so each dose of pill(s) would need a separate compartment and a lid that registers when it has been opened.

    Probably exists somewhere - but I haven't seen one yet.

    The common blister pack could have an embedded matrix so that the broken foil registers when a pill has been removed. The blister pack would need something like an induction system to communicate with the dispenser that holds it. That seems rather overcomplicated.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Alert

      Fed the cat?

      Those tend to have autonomous auditory (and if urgent, sensory) reminders.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The common blister pack could have an embedded matrix so that the broken foil registers when a pill has been removed. The blister pack would need something like an induction system to communicate with the dispenser that holds it. That seems rather overcomplicated."

      Or just print the foil side of the blister pack with the day and dose number. Tablets only ever taken daily are often already printer with three letter day names. Then all yo need is for an app to remind you to take it and cancel the alarm. People with visual or cognitive problems have...erm....problems already so an e-ink label isn't likely to help them much if at all anyway.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    From the pic: "PhutureMed 2.0"

    Really says if all, doesn't it?

  12. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    idIoT

    "The Register hates* to hose down oddball Internet of Things enthusiasm but feels bound to note that the breathless announcement of the idea doesn't explain how an E-Ink screen on a bottle or package is more effective than notifications or vibrations delivered through a phone in a patient's hand."

    Quite. Medicine is in the bedroom, a place I tend not to be the times I'm supposed to ingest my meds. Plus, those boxes would still be silent, non-blinking, so not attracting any attention whatsoever.

    In the junkpile Very Useful Parts Source I found a button with a red LED in it, attached it to a Nano with a RTC, wrote a bit of code and now the LED blinks at certain times as a reminder; it lives on a side table in the living room. Pushing the button acknowledges the reminder.

  13. VinceH Silver badge

    "The Register hates* to hose down oddball Internet of Things enthusiasm but feels bound to note that the breathless announcement of the idea doesn't explain how an E-Ink screen on a bottle or package is more effective than notifications or vibrations delivered through a phone in a patient's hand."

    Even that doesn't work for me. I'm on three different pills, two to be taken in the morning and one at night. Originally, I set daily alarms on my phone to remind me - but if I was busy or whatever, the fact that I still had to take the tablets would slip my mind.

    My current system is: When I take my pills in the morning, I place the strip for the evening pill on the base of my desk lamp. That serves as a reminder at night to take that one, and when I do it'll be when I'm shutting down, so I then place the strips for my morning pills on the keyboard, which in turn serves as a reminder to take them when I sit at my desk in the morning - at which point I place the strip for the evening pill on the base of my desk lamp...

    I find this is the ideal approach for me, and I forget far less often than I used to. However, it's still not perfect - if I don't use the desk lamp at night, I don't notice the strip I've placed there, so I forget that night and, as a consequence, the following morning.

    But it does mean the damned things remain in sync, though, so I can refill the prescriptions at the same time without ending up with a surplus of any of the pills.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] I don't notice the strip I've placed there,"

      I use a similar system for four times a day. Even though they sit in front of the PC screen - I occasionally overlook them when engrossed in El Reg comments.

      The next pill is there in clear sight - already out of its blister pack to remind me - and I still don't always see it.

      The suggestion by Stoneshop above - of a preprogrammed flashing red button is definitely the way to go. Just have to remember not to cancel the alarm until the pill has been swallowed. One of my Arduino projects has all the bits to do it with a modicum of reprogramming.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "but if I was busy or whatever, the fact that I still had to take the tablets would slip my mind."

      Unless you are particularly absent minded, does this not indicate that your health is not really all that high of a priority? Please note, I'm not having a go at you in particular here, but many of the comments here seem to indicate that potentially life saving medication really isn't in the forefront of the minds of the people it's supposed to be saving/curing/alleviating. And yes, I do fully understand that some conditions and/or illnesses might cause people to forget. There seems to be a general attitude from a number of commentards that taking pills is both complicated and a bit of a chore.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        "Unless you are particularly absent minded, does this not indicate that your health is not really all that high of a priority?"

        I'm often complimented on my very good memory - but when it happens I always find it odd, because I know that I'm terribly absent minded, especially for 'trivial' things. The purpose of the pills is not trivial1, but the process of taking them is.

        That's me, though. Others may have different excuses.

        "Please note, I'm not having a go at you in particular here,"

        Understood entirely - and I'm pretty sure that before I was ever taking tablets on a regular basis, I wondered the same thing about others.

        "but many of the comments here seem to indicate that potentially life saving medication really isn't in the forefront of the minds of the people it's supposed to be saving/curing/alleviating."

        Again, it may differ for others, but in my case the problem that some of my medication addresses could indeed prove fatal if not kept in check - but the thing is, I'm okay with it. I don't want to pop my clogs, but if it happens, it happens. *shrugs*

        1. The one at night is for high cholesterol, the two in the morning for high blood pressure. My high BP, when it was discovered (a few years ago, and the first time I'd been to see the doctor in many years) reached 240/140.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about an e-ink bluetooth display above your toilet roll holder?

    That way when it detects your smartphone after a set amount of time it can helpfully let you know it's time to wipe your arse.

    The quest for problems knows no bounds with the IoT.

    1. PNGuinn
      Joke

      What about an e-ink bluetooth display above your toilet roll holder?

      Would that be :

      a. To remind you to wipe your a**e?

      b. To remind you to flush?

      c. To remind you to chuck the bloody pills into the bog?

      d. To remind you to chuck the bloody phone into the bog?

      e. All of the above?

  15. MotionCompensation

    What's the point?

    If you're looking at the label, chances are you did not forget the medicine - that's why you're looking at the label, right? A reminder when I'm not looking at the label would be so much more helpful. One that pops up on that display I'm looking at 4 times per hour, the display I'm always carrying with me, the one that can vibrate and make loud noises to get my attention.

    A reasonably effective, simple solution to the autopilot problem already exists, no Bluetooth needed:

    https://www.amazon.com/Automatically-Auto-Repeating-pill-Medication-Non-Adherence/dp/B004W8EQC4

  16. lukewarmdog

    The app is surely all that is needed and should be configured by the doctor / pharmacist not the user.

    Typically you go to the doctor, they write something totally illegible on a bit of paper, you take that to the pharmacy, they print a label you can read on a box of the pills you need to take.

    Alternatively whilst the doc is typing out what he just wrote into your medical notes, he could update your phones app and the app can then buzz (or whatever) to say it's time to take your pills. This also reduces the risk of the end user not setting their alarms to remind themselves of what they need to take.

    Honestly you'd think whoever came up with this was some kind of e-ink manufacturer trying to find a reason to be relevant.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Typically you go to the doctor, they write something totally illegible on a bit of paper, you take that to the pharmacy, they print a label you can read on a box of the pills you need to take."

      What 3rd world country are you in that doctors still write out prescriptions by hand? Even here in the UK, the NHS has managed to get that all done on computer now although the prescriptions are still printed out onto paper so you can personally carry then to the Chemist shop.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future

    All we need now is a catheter/automatic blood sample taker to monitor medications, connected to the internet of course, so it can inform your doctor/employers/next of kin when you miss a dose (should you ignore the multiple threats alerts from phone/electronic chip in wrist).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] automatic blood sample taker to monitor medications [...]"

    There is a continuous glucose monitor like that for diabetics - unfortunately its probe under the skin has to be regularly replaced.

    Google are working on contact lenses that sample the tear fluids for the same monitoring.

  19. Bakana

    First

    My first thought when I saw the headline was that they were putting the e-ink displays on each individual pill.

    Of course, now that I've mentioned it, someone is sure to try to Patent the idea.

    Maybe that will be Next Week's "Internet of Things" headline.

    The week after that, someone will patent a way to put E-ink IoT displays on the inside of your Eyelids. With Bluetooth to connect your eyeballs to all your Internet of Things devices.

    OK, this will just get Sillier from here on out.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: First

      "OK, this will just get Sillier from here on out."

      Do you think an e-ink label tattooed on a dick could refresh fast enough to help get the timing right whilst bashing the bishop?

      I probably shouldn't open another bottle of wine.

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