Chip-embedded pill raises new privacy concerns

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ever wonder what the “Rx” associated with medicine means?

The most common explanation is that it stands for the Latin term “recipe,” meaning “to take.”

In other words, when your doctor writes “Rx 2 aspirin,” he’s telling you to take your medicine (the “and call me in the morning” is implied).

It’s actually some serious advice.

According to experts, people who don’t take their medicine as prescribed are responsible for about $100 billion a year in medical costs, because their “nonadherence or noncompliance” results in them becoming sicker and needing additional treatment or hospitalization.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a possible solution, but like all “solutions,” it comes with a cost.

No word on the monetary cost, but with a warning that it could intrude on patient privacy.

The digital medication is a version of the antipsychotic drug Abilify, embedded with a sensor that signals when the drug is ingested.

Patients sign a release allowing that information to be sent to their doctors and up to four other people, showing the date and time the pills are taken.

It could greatly improve the effectiveness of the drugs, and help those who want to take their medication but often forget, but it could also violate privacy if patients are unduly pressured into using the system.

There are already electronic monitors that tell your car insurance company how you drive and smartwatches that tell your health insurance company how well you are sleeping and how much exercise you get.

Go shopping for something online, and you’ll notice advertising for that type of item follows you where ever your web surfing takes you.

Online map systems tell you how the traffic is moving on your commuting route, and send you reminders when it’s time to pick up the kids from school.

So far, most of the privacy we give away is done with our permission, in exchange for convenience, curiosity or economic incentives.

At some point, a different point for different people, we’ll find the loss of privacy isn’t worth the gain. Let’s hope we’re willing to take a stand before it’s too late.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: