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Smart Pills Are Real, But Are They Dangerous?

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Smart Pills Are Real, But Are They Dangerous?

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Until now, digital “smart” pills have been a technology of the distant future. Recently, however, smart pills have become a reality, and pharmaceutical companies have started to release smart pills containing computer chips.

Smart pills have been revolutionary in helping to treat multiple conditions, including cancer, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and more.

Proteus is the company behind the smart pill used to treat cancer. These smart pills contain a chip along with capsules of a cancer chemotherapy drug called capecitabine, which patients have to take multiple times a day. When the chip from the pill hits the stomach it sends a signal to a computer, allowing doctors, patients, and family members to track the patient’s use of the drug.

The tracking system in the smart pills can be helpful in ensuring that patients are taking their medications as prescribed. According to CNN, half of the medications prescribed to treat chronic diseases are not taken as directed, and about a third of patients don’t even fill their prescription. Elderly patients in particular have trouble remembering when to take their medications, and this could help them keep track of their schedules.

The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has also made developments in smart pills for treating patients with strokes and epilepsy by creating computer-brain interfaces that have the ability to activate and deactivate portions of the brain. This technology has also been used in the nervous system to help amputees to control the movement of their prosthetics.

Researchers tested this technology in animals before it was introduced to humans to help control prosthetics. Researchers were able to successfully control the brains of birds, mice, and cockroaches to make them move certain ways. Even sharks, according to CNN, could be remote-controlled after scientists implanted electrodes in their brains. These “robo-animals,” were either used or could potentially be used to spy on enemies or, in the case of sharks, to detect enemy ship movements in the ocean.

As with most new technology, along with its benefits, the smart pill also presents some risks and ethical problems.

These smart pills can potentially be hacked or experience bugs just like a computer can, which could be dangerous for those being controlled and anyone around them. For example, a person could be controlled to walk off a cliff or into a car instead of out of the way of a car.

Another risk is the potential inability to turn off chips and other devices implanted in the body by scientists and doctors. For instance, according to CNN, one patient’s heart beat was maintained by a left ventricular assist device. When he asked the doctors at the hospital to turn the machine off because it required him to carry around a heavy battery constantly, they refused. If they turned off the machine, it would immediately kill him.

I don’t care. I’d prefer not to live than have to carry this battery around all the time.”

— The Patient

There are, of course, also privacy concerns. As discussed earlier, the chip inside the smart pill tracks the patient’s use of their medication and allows the information to be viewed by the doctor, the patient, and family members. However, the patient may not want all of their family members to have access to their medical information.

The digital smart pills are groundbreaking in terms of treating medical conditions, but are the risks worth the benefits?

 

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