Pills have become more than just a way to help the medicine go down. With generics now accounting for a bigger share of the 4 billion prescriptions written annually, Big Pharma is looking for ways to boost its pipeline. Enter the superpill:
By taking pictures as they pass through the GI tract, Given Imaging's PillCams help diagnose problems, sans invasive gastro tests. (Given Imaging says it's also working on a colonoscopy version.) The firm says PillCams make up 95 percent of the U.S. market for G.I. cameras -- though a group working on a high-def pill may change that. Intestines in HD, anyone?
Contact with stomach acid turns Proteus Biomedical's ingestible sensors into digital monitors, which can determine whether a patient took his meds or why her heart rate spiked. Pharma giant Novartis found the technology promising enough to plunk down $24 million to license it, and Proteus says it plans to debut it in Europe soon.
Take a whiff
It's not just docs who see pills' potential. A Dutch artist and biologist have teamed up to develop an ingestible perfume that emits a (good) fragrance when the pill popper sweats. There's no launch date yet for Swallowable Parfum, but deodorant makers beware: If it succeeds, that could be the end of swiping twice under each arm.