Danish technology company Bang & Olufsen Medicom has developed a wireless packaging technology that should enable clinical investigators to monitor whether patients in studies are taking their medication as directed.

The firm is developing two forms of the product, called The Helping Hand, one using Bluetooth and the other radiofrequency identification, according to a report from UK-based printing and packaging consultancy Pira.

The Bluetooth version is designed for use in clinical trial settings, as it can handle more complex data requirements and its cost would be too high for widespread use. Meanwhile the RFID version lends itself to marketed drugs, mainly because increased use of RFID tags - in applications as diverse as automotive central locking and supermarket inventory management systems – is driving down unit costs.

The Helping Hand takes the form of a curved holder that can incorporate a blister package and is programmed with a schedule for medicine use. The pack reminds the user with sound and light when the medicine must be taken. The patient takes out the blister card and takes the medicine. When the card is put back, The Helping Hand shows the compliance level using a visual cue.

The Blutooth version of the Helping Hand measures the exact time a tablet is taken. This is effective for both the patient, the clinical investigator and the pharmaceutical company as it gives precise feedback on how effective the drug regime has been.

When a patient has taken the drug from the packet, information is sent to a central server which can be accessed by the clinical investigator. If the patient misses a dose or takes it at the wrong time, a signal is sent and the researcher can then contact the person to remind them to take the drug.

RFID can be used to store records of when tablets are taken for later download and review, but lacks the real-time functionality of Bluetooth.

The device “can be very helpful in measuring the effectiveness of clinical trial evaluations,” according to Hans Jensen, who gave a presentation of Bang & Olufsen Medicon’s wireless packaging technologies at the recent Smart and Intelligent Packaging Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

A pharmaceutical company is expected to trial the RFID version of the device within a year on a drug that is already on the market, according to Pira. The post-marketing study is expected to last between 12-18 months.