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Start-up developing smart pill bottle targets HIV, cancer, transplant meds & speciality pharmac

Start-ups like Abiogenix are developing smart pill boxes that remind patients to take pills and knows when they have missed them. They alert the patient with an email or text message, nudging them to take the missed medication. Then there are later stage ventures likeVitality that make the GlowCaps, a pill bottle that glows green and beeps when a patient has missed a dosage.

A very early stage New York start-up is taking this idea further.

AdhereTech, is trying to develop a smart pill bottle that not only is intelligent enough to know when pills are missed, but also when liquid medication is missed. The data collected from the bottle is sent to a secure cloud server that is HIPAA compliant. The company can call or text to remind the patient to take the medication.


AdhereTech graduated from New York health accelerator Blueprint Health’ssummer program, and founder and CEO Josh Stein says his company is the only hardware company that has been admitted to the accelerator – that’s one out of 18 who have so far gone through Blueprint’s program.

Founded in October 2011, AdhereTech’s goal is to solve the costly conundrum of patient nonadherence. By some estimates, the true cost of patients not taking their pills is a jaw-dropping $188 billion. Stein, who incorporated the company after he graduated from the Wharton School of Business last year, said that the company expects to raise a $750,000 seed round from angel groups soon; $150,000 has already been raised.

A portion of the money will be used to finalize the product, expected to be completely in the first quarter before the launch of clinical trials, that will consume most of the seed round.

“We are running clinical trials that will compare our bottle to a generic bottle to see how much we can improve adherence,” Stein said.

For now AdhereTech is focusing on three drug markets – HIV, cancer and transplant drugs that are “expensive drugs distributed through specialty pharmacies.”

Stein believes that what sets his company apart from other companies is that he is trying to effect behavior change without actually making patients do anything differently when using their product.

“Under the umbrella of changing as little behavior as possible when it comes to using our product, the default reminder will be a phone call because we want to reach everyone and not only those with a cell phone,” Stein said. “But then they can opt to get reminders through text.”

So how will the process work? When patients go to a specialty pharmacy, they sign a HIPAA compliant consent form and can opt-in to the AdhereTech service. That gives the company access to the same information that is on the outside of a regular prescription bottle – name, contact information and dosage schedule, Stein explained.

“The AdhereTech bottle [then] sends periodic measurements of the contents of the bottle to our servers and because we have access to a patient’s dosage schedule and we know what drug they are on, we can determine that ‘Oh, because there is this much left in bottle, that means that this person is or is not adhering.’” he said.

Stein is talking with pharma companies who are receptive but all are looking for results of how the finished product works in the clinical trials.

Aside from Abiogenix and Vitality that all have the same goal of improving adherence, AdhereTech has another formidable competitor in Proteus Digital Health. That digital health company backed by names like Medtronic and Novartis, makes the FDA-cleared smart pill. It is an ingestible sensor that can be embedded in a pill and swallowed that transmits a signal to a wireless wearable patch that records the time the pill was taken.

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