Very scary microchip tells docs if you’re taking your meds!!

Okay this is damn scary and you know people like Treatment Advocacy Center and NAMI are going to be all over it. It’s a forced medication philosophy’s wet dream. This is hard-core, big brother stuff and you know it will be marketed real hard here in America if some people have their way.

Microchip that tells the GP if you’ve taken your pills

Microchips in pills could soon allow doctors to find out whether a patient has taken their medication.

The digestible sensors, just 1mm wide, would mean GPs and surgeons could monitor patients outside the hospital or surgery.

Developers say the technology could be particularly useful for psychiatric or elderly patients who rely on a complicated regime of drugs – and are at risk if they miss a dose or take it at the wrong time (emphasis mine—read the rest).

Hat tip: Furious Season—you should go check out his commentary

(update 2015) Below is a copy of the Furious Season’s post which is no longer up:

April 13, 2009

Microchip Tells Docs If Patients Have Taken Their Pills, Why That’s Scary

By Philip Dawdy

News is out in the UK of a US-made microchip (in capsule or pill form, swallowed) that would monitor (from one’s stomach) whether or not a patient has complied with a prescribed drug therapy and, then, report back to the patient’s doctor in real time (via a transmitter on the patient’s back and, then, by cell phone). Yes, you read all this right and, yes, this technology, developed by Proteus Biomedical, will undergo two clinical trials in the UK later this year.

On one level, this kind of technology is fascinating and interesting for all the usual dorky techie reasons (wow, telemetry has gotten that advanced and so have transmission technologies–it’s all so very sci-fi and high tech triumphant), but on another more important level it’s downright frightening. That’s because I see this “intelligent medicine” technology as a potentially massive intrusion on individual freedom and privacy.

In the above news article, look at the range of prescribed meds that’s discussed as being monitoring-worthy (and in an unquestioning way): psychotropics, heart meds (statins, etc.) and even birth control pills.

Do any women really want their docs monitoring what they put in their bodies in such a fashion? Is there anyone who takes anti-depressants who wants his or her doc probing their medication compliance so intimately? I doubt it. What would the doctor even say if a woman missed taking the Pill for a week? “Hi, we’ve noticed a disturbing pattern in your estrogen intake. Oh, you are trying to get pregnant? Come into my office for mandatory counseling and depression screening? I need to sell you pills of some kind.”

OK, so I’m being flippant, but if anyone thinks that such a scenario isn’t somewhat realistic, then they are naive.

Now, if someone does voluntarily wish to be monitored and consents to being monitored, so be it. But just about the only scenario were I could see such monitoring being acceptable–assuming it even works–is in cases where psych patients have a proven track record of violence (as determined by a court, not a social worker) and there’s a court order in place to allow such monitoring. Other than that, the mandatory use of such technology would violate individual liberties.

Even more worrisome to me is that such chip-in-a-capsule technologies could be used to monitor what people eat and drink and be used to report back to some central authority who could then determine if you’ve had too much soda (beer, wine, etc.) and send the public health department over to “counsel” you.

But there’s another worry I have over the potential misuse of this technology:

“Professor Nick Peters, a cardiologist at Imperial College London, who is co-ordinating trials, said the technology was ‘transformative’.”‘This is all about empowering patients and their families because it measures wellness, and people can actually be tracked getting better,’ he said.”

“‘Psychologically speaking, that’s hugely helpful for patients and enormously reassuring for carers.'”

This kind of thinking relies on two assumptions: One, that medicine always provide wellness and, two, that all people respond to medicines the same way.

Apply that to statins, which are very widely-used in the US. They are presumed to be benign meds and while I’m not questioning their cholesterol lowering powers, let me point you to the FDA’s adverse events database on Lipitor, which has just under 50,000 reports through the third quarter of 2008.

Just as with anti-depressants, not everyone responds to allegedly benign meds the same way. For some people, statins are clearly awful drugs and I know of multiple cases from my personal orbit where people have been put on Lipitor and had powerful muscle cramps, liver problems, lost their memory and so on. When they went to their prescriber, they were told in each case that Lipitor couldn’t be the cause and that they had to stay on the drug or they would die (cadiologists may approach psychiatrists for their religious attachment to their specialties’ meds). In case, the people blew their docs off and away went the cramps and nerve problems and back came their memories. Interestingly, none of them re-developed problems with high cholesterol.

Think of that kind of thing when you think of “intelligent medicine.”

Posted by Philip Dawdy at April 13, 2009 01:37 PM

16 thoughts on “Very scary microchip tells docs if you’re taking your meds!!

  1. gianna, it was nice of you to give Philip a hat tip.

    I sent him the article and I got nothing…..

    oh well. ….it’s being read and that all that matters.


  2. They will develope the technology if it is cheaper than jailing people, which it it. People jailed in ther own homes with those ankle bracelets is here now, the future would be an ankle bracelet with this poison medicine detector built in. Got to call it medicine.


  3. A few thoughts on this…

    First from the “oh my god, big brother” perspective. I find this to be very, very scary – especially if the chip/pill tracking is forced on people who have no ability to object to the tracking method. This is slowly working toward a “nanny” state. The event I would keep an eye out for would be the government making laws requiring a set group of people to use such technology.

    Now from the technology perspective (@Sloopy)

    Depending on the coating, the chip could simply be in the pill casing. The technology is there to make the chip that small. Mind you, it’s not cost effective yet, but it’s there. I would suspect each chip would be identical, but “written” to at a pharmacy. The encoding does not have to be RFID but that may the easiest.

    Just thinking aloud there.


  4. ….Take a deep-breath NAMI readers, and Psychiatrists (’cause I know you read this site sometimes)….It was a joke. It was just a joke.

    No reason to bring it up in your next “leadership” meeting….
    Bring up freedom – that will give you plenty to talk about – a “new” subject for you clowns!!!



  5. Gianna,

    You know what would really help?

    Global positioning chips inside all the top management people with NAMI and the TAC….all the top docs in psychiatry….

    So we could all know exactly where they are – at all times!

    Maybe we could break up into teams, and plant them on them!
    How cool would that be!!!



  6. C’mon Gianna,

    “This is all about empowering patients and their families because it measures wellness”

    And NAMI is all about “helping”, and the TAC is all about “advocacy”….

    We’re all just too damned stupid to take care of ourselves….We need all these people, and things like microchips….

    We need these people….We need these things.




  7. haha, I just left a comment on Phil’s blog that this makes me feel like moving to the moon… without reading the above comments first, even.


  8. On a technological level, I wonder if this proposal is even practical.

    Each chipped pill would need a unique identity, presumably in the form of a digital fingerprint embedded in an RFID device. Ensuring uniqueness to each pill would involve a costly manufacturing process. I also wonder how the pills would be made tamper proof? If you could separate the RFID device from the psychoactive compound, then you could swallow one but not the other, defeating the whole objective! And that would never do!


  9. Stephany: Each time, I see the big picture, I try to tell myself not to put too much into what I see and become “paranoid”. On the other hand: “Paranoia is just knowing all the facts,” as Burroughs had it…


  10. Oh yes, and don’t forget Fuller Torrey’s infamous Stanley Foundation connection to the patent of the HALDOL under-the-skin disk. Imagine that in the hands of forced/coerced medication touters like Torrey and TAC. (he believes in preventative “treatment of violence” and he believes SZ is caused by cat poop virus, and he believes Haldol is an anti-viral med….see the big picture?)


  11. We will need to find another galaxy, I fear. To make sure, they never ever find us. Does anyone here know how to build a space ship?


  12. It’ll be marketed real hard all over. Especially for those two groups, the elderly, and the psychiatrized. Only for their own good, of course! One more reason to stay clear of shrinks, if ever possible. Sometimes I feel a strong urge to move somewhere, where there are none. Just don’t know where that would be…


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