Electronic devices to track ARV adherence

JOHANNESBURG – HIV/Aids experts are experimenting with electronic devices to monitor ARV-adherence.

Delegates at the 2016 International Aids Conference have been discussing the efficiency of a pill box that records data in real time.

Electronic monitoring devices are considered one of the most objective tools to combat non-adherence to ARVs.

In South Africa, ensuring that patients take their HIV medication, is an ongoing challenge.

Could this little device help patients keep up with their ARV treatment?

Wisepill is a small pill container that records the date and time the device is opened.

“It’s been developed using cellphone technology. So when the device is opened, it relays information to a server, where patient details are stored. Researchers are then able to access that data.”

This makes it possible for researchers to keep tabs on whether patients are taking their pills at appropriate times.

If the server does not record any data, a reminder SMS is sent

The hardware has been designed to resemble a cellphone, to combat stigma.But the technology is not without glitches.

“So there can be some difficulty differentiating between non-adherences to the device versus non-adherence to medication. So, if someone opens the device, really it doesn’t tell you if somebody ingested their medication and pocket dosing can occur a lot. So, if somebody takes out, if they’re dosing twice a day and they open the device in the morning and take out two pills, you’ll only see that they opened the device once,” Columbia University’s Reubin Robbins said.

A team is needed to sift through the collected information.

Data to run the device would cost around 70-rand per month.

The pill box is being used in 20 countries worldwide, and has been part of more than 40-studies.

Lloyd Marshall from Wisepill Technologies says, it means you could manage a hundred users and only hear about the adherent or non-adherent users once a week. And then you can phone them or you can send a message.

Developers are also looking at including geo-fencing, an alarm and LED lights.