Wi-fi bottles use light and sound to remind patients to take meds

October 15, 2011

Approximately a dozen pharmaceutical manufacturers are using light-up, wireless-connected pill bottles to improve medication adherence.

Key Points

The Vitality GlowCaps bottles, manufactured by Vitality Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., can illuminate, play a melody, and send a cell signal to trigger a text message or ring a home phone. In addition, patients can push a button embedded on the bottles to transmit automatic prescription refill requests to their pharmacists.

"We are focused on disease states such as HIV, diabetes, and transplants, where it is really critical that people take their medications," said David Rose, CEO of Vitality. Transplant doctors, for example, are particularly passionate about making sure patients take their medications, because they don't want patients to reject the transplants. "The system not only text-messages the individual; it also sends weekly e-mails to the transplant coordinator, so the coordinator knows how they are doing," Rose said.

"The data goes wirelessly from the bottle to the nightlight; there is no need for patients to have a cell phone or a computer," Rose said.

Patients, caregivers, doctors, and pharmacists all have access to data collected from the bottles. Weekly and monthly reports are produced, showing which days and times that patients took their medications - and which days and times they did not.

"We are tracking when people take their medications and when they need counseling by pharmacists. A pharmacist might call and ask them if they are having some issues with side effects," Rose said. To date, Vitality and pharmaceutical manufacturers have been working with specialty pharmacists. In the future, Rose hopes that all the major drug chains will offer GlowCaps as an option for patients.

For now, however, 11 pharmaceutical manufacturers are using GlowCaps for certain medications.

"For every $1 they invest in smart medicine packaging, [we estimate] that they get $4 back in increased sales. This works for any medication that costs over $4 or $5 a day," Rose said.

It seems that the relatively new technology is working. Third-party studies with the Center for Connected Health at Harvard show that the GlowCaps bottles can increase patients' adherence by 25% on average.