One Company's Solution to Helping Patients Take Their Oral Birth Control

JANUARY 09, 2018
I am always on the lookout for any new technology seeking to address the issue of medication adherence for patients. Last year saw a lot of major advancements and disappointments, including the approval of the first smart pill (Abilify MYCITE), but also some negative studies using smart pill bottles. For many companies and investors within the digital health space, finding that one fix for medication adherence (a golden egg-laying goose hunt, as far as I am concerned) has become a considerable interest with a potentially big payoff.
I don't think I am the only one that believes a universal fix is a long time in coming—unless ingestible sensors and their embedding in medications suddenly become drastically cheap. Instead, companies are turning back to niche areas to concentrate on improving adherence or therapy outcomes. This includes sensors for inhalers and injectables. But one company that I recently heard about is somewhat interesting in its pursuit to address adherence to oral birth control (OBC). 
is a company that created a 'smart sleeve' to drop blister packs into to sense how many pills are remaining.1 Targeting OBC is the big focus of this intervention, which breaks down like this:
  • Patient drops blister pack into a sensor-enabled sleeve.
  • Smart sleeve detects how many pills are in the blister pack.
  • The sleeve is paired with an app on the patient's smartphone that uses a virtual calendar to keep track of when a patient took their medication.
  • If a patient misses a dose, an alert is sent to the patient.
So, a lot of questions remain for me regarding the product:
  • Does the sleeve light up or buzz when it's time to take it?
  • What are the dimensions of blister packs it can handle? It's not like all OBC comes in a universal size pack at this point.
  • Can the app allow others (such as a partner) to see when they took their medication?
I think this product is slightly interesting overall. However, it reminded me of some other items already on the market, but geared toward clinical trials. Tthe AARDEX group, the makers of the MEMS Cap, also makes the and , which are smart-packaged blister packs for tracking adherence in clinical trials. When the blister is popped open, it sends a reading that the patient took their drug. I am waiting for when this stuff becomes cheap enough that all blister packs are electronically enabled to do this. Now, I don't think it would make it big in the U.S., based on our current regulations around dispensing medications. But outside the U.S., smart blister packs could have a big market, just based on their high utilization. Coming back to the US market, I wouldn't be surprised if a manufacturer of OBC decides to go that route and start dispensing their meds in a smart blister pack in the near future that allows you to pair it with your smartphone in the same manner AAM is aiming for.

  1. Aam. Accessed January 2018.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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