WITH TODAY'S HUGE ARSENAL of drugs, doctors can control diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension, and dozens of other diseases. But they can't force people to take their medicine. Forgetful and reluctant patients rack up $25 billion in avoidable hospital bills each year, according to the National Pharmaceutical Council in Reston, Va., plus billions more in unnecessary nursing home admissions.
One remedy may be for the medicine containers themselves to remind patients when it's time to take a pop. Aprex Corp. in Fremont, Calif., builds a "smart" bottle cap that's equipped with its own chip, alarm clock, and a tiny display. The cap keeps track of how often the bottle is opened and can nudge patients with electronic beeps.
Now, Aprex has added a modem that reads the cap's memory and automatically relays to Aprex the number of times the cap was removed that day. If the count isn't right, the patient gets a reminder call in the morning. The service, called Dosing Partners, costs less than $2 a day--but isn't covered by insurance. Still, Aprex has drawn some big backers. Last fall, Pfizer invested $2 million to join Johnson & Johnson and New York Life as an equity partner.