The Necklace That Nags

Can't remember if you took your medicine? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a sensor necklace that can record when its wearer has swallowed pills, and send reminders if necessary.

The MagneTrace relies on tiny magnets embedded in specially designed pills. They're inexpensive, harmless and pass through a patient's system undigested in about 24 hours, says team leader Maysam Ghovanloo, an engineering professor. When patients swallow the pills, they trigger a magnetic sensor in the necklace. The sensor connects wirelessly to a device the patient carries in a pocket or purse. That device then wirelessly transmits data to a caregiver.

The system's not yet ready for prime time. It's been tested on a dummy and will soon be tried on dogs. Trials on humans could begin in a year. To make the MagneTrace a commercial success, Ghovanloo will also have to get FDA approval, as well as persuade drug manufacturers to put magnets in their product. That might turn out to be the toughest pill of all, unless the companies conclude that patient compliance ultimately is as good for profits as it is for patients.