I'm telling you, folks, there is no way anyone could make this stuff up.
Thanks to my friends on the Healthy Skepticism listserv:
Novartis is implanting a chip in people's shoulders that will call their cell phone if they are late taking their next dose of Diovan for their high blood pressure. So far 20 people have been experimented on and the company is ecstatic that this has improved compliance from 30 to 80 percent.
When I first read this quickly I thought that they had figured out a chip that would measure blood pressure and let you know that your blood pressure was too high. Sadly the chip is not that smart. Novartis puts one chip in your shoulder and a second chip inside each pill (great way to reduce the excessive costs of medicines, guys). The chip in (on?) your shoulder waits to see the other chip go by and if none pass along withion the specified time period, ring goes the phone. This by the way has important health implications. What if your doc has miscalculated your dose and the Diovan is actually making your blood pressure go so low you're about to pass out? The dutiful chips still keep bugging you to take the next pill. Too bad they won't call 911 for you when you're stretched out on the floor.
Now, I freely admit that not taking your pills (compliance, adherence, or the term du jour) is a super big problem in chronic illnsesses like hypertension; and treating hypertension is truly lifesaving. So what's the beef with this really cute little chip, all references to 1984 aside? And assuming both previous and future patients give appropriate informed consent to have the chip implanted?
My main thought is that Diovan is an expensive, on-patent anti-hypertensive, that in the grand scheme of things ought to be a third-line treatment for hypertension at best. So who is implanting chips to remind people to take their generic diuretic; or their generic beta blocker; or their generic ACE inhibitor? Why is the chip only available to remind people to take the drug that most of them have no reason to be on in the first place, were it not for slick marketing?
If the chip were coming from a reasonably unbiased public health source, and aimed solely at reducing morbidity and mortality from hypertension, then we could focus our concerns on issues like privacy and so on. Given that the chip-pushers are motivated by corporate profit much more than by public health, we have other concerns to address first.