A New Ally in Preventing Medication Mistakes


Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a step closer to embracing the digital age of medicine by approving the use of Proteus in the treatment plan for certain medical conditions. Proteus is a combination of an ingestible pill and monitoring sensor that work in tandem to aid in measuring a patient’s adherence to medication regimens. Proteus Digital Health, Inc. designed the new tool in digital medicine to help patients, physicians and caregivers understand the habits surrounding medication intake and the impact adherence or non-adherence has on the treatment of certain conditions.

The ingestible sensor is no larger than a grain of sand and is taken as a pill, in supplement to other prescribed medications. A linked wearable patch is worn on the patient’s torso that collects information necessary to monitor ongoing treatment. Once the ingestible pill dissolves, the sensor patch is able to gather pertinent treatment data, including time of ingestion, along with other metrics of health gathered independently such as heart rate, amount of time at rest and steps taken. That data is then communicated to a smart device through Bluetooth technology, offering valuable insight into a patient’s medication routines.

The Positive Impact of Health Sensors

The move toward the use of digital medicine aids proves powerful in a number of aspects associated with overall patient health, with one of the most imperative being medication adherence. According to a study conducted by the American Medical Association, one of the leading causes of death within the United States is directly correlated to adverse reactions to prescribed drugs, which can result from patients not adhering to prescribed routines or errors in prescriptions. The AMA study reports that more than 100,000 Americans die each year in medication related mishaps, an issue that could be combatted with the use of smart sensors like Proteus.

While some of these grave outcomes can be linked back to poor medication adherence, a startling number are due to errors made by the prescribing medical professional or the pharmacist fulfilling a prescription order. The AMA research points to an example in a Springfield, New Jersey outpatient pharmacy located with a large hospital system. Out of 9,846 prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, 1,371 mistakes were found, or one in eight fulfillments.

Prescription medication mistakes can cause a wide range of issues for patients, including interference with current medications which creates the illusion that a specific course of treatment is not working to absolve a patient’s symptoms. A leading firm of medical law solicitors in the UK compiled a list of common claims made against pharmacies as it relates to prescription errors which includes:

  • Errors related to instructions given for administering the drug
  • Filling a prescription with the wrong medication
  • Incorrect dosage or labeling
  • Using damaged or unsafe materials when filling a prescription
  • Incorrect medication mixing

Each of the pharmacist errors listed here can lead to costly ramifications, as additional treatment plans may be implemented or additional conditions not related to the underlying issue may occur. Medication adherence technology like the ingestible sensor produced by Proteus Digital Health is beneficial in recognizing and quickly correcting issues that arise due to pharmacist error. When patients and medical professionals have the right data related to medication adherence through devices like Proteus, the result is the ultimate reduction of the potential for experiencing adverse drug reactions.

Finding the Right Solution

Medication adherence and the fight against prescription drug errors is no small feat, but advancing technology within the medical market is evolving rapidly enough that much promise lies in monitoring devices like Proteus. While the ingestible sensor from Proteus Digital Health is one of the only solutions currently approved by the FDA, it is mainly uses in marriage with treatment regimens for the mentally ill. Fortunately, products such as uBox, a smart pillbox that works to assist patients with medication adherence, and Propeller, a sensor used for the management of Asthma and COPD symptoms, are also available to patients seeking a greater level of health through digital medicine. With these innovative solutions, it is highly likely that the combination of increased medication adherence and reduced adverse drug reactions are on the horizon.