AdhereTech gets $1.75M to redesign its smart pill bottle

By Jonah Comstock
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AdhereTech's smart pill bottle. AdhereTech's first generation smart pill bottle.

Smart pill bottle maker AdhereTech has raised $1.75 million from undisclosed investors, the company's first non-seed round. CEO Josh Stein told MobiHealthNews the funding is for a very specific need -- redesigning the prototype bottle that AdhereTech has been using in its pilots.

"Basically we’re raising a series A because we want to redesign the bottles," he said. "They work beautifully, but we need to make them smaller -- a smaller form factor, that is, the volume will actually be larger." He said the smaller bottle will also be cheaper (the cost per bottle will be reduced by half), better suited for mass manufacturing, and easier to use.

"We have learned from our pilots a lot about the user experience of the bottles," he said. "We will be implementing those learnings in the design of the bottle. The potential improvements will all be put into this new version." 

AdhereTech’s pill bottles contain sensors and a cellular antenna. The bottles send adherence data to AdhereTech's servers, which analyze that data in near-real time. When a patient misses a dose, the system can remind them in several ways including a call, a text message, and flashing lights and chimes on the bottle itself. The startup is a graduate of several accelerators including Blueprint Health, StartUp Health, and Pilot Tech NYC.

AdhereTech currently has five pilots underway, which between them are using all the company's existing pill bottles, according to Stein. That list includes hospital pilots with Weill Cornell Medical Center and Walter Reed Military Hospital, a pharma pilot with Boehringer Ingelheim, an additional pharma pilot with an undisclosed partner, and a pilot with a "top 10 pharmacy benefit manager." He said they've been approached by additional pharmaceutical companies and had to turn them away -- or at least postpone working with them until the new bottles are built.

Stein said the pilots are going well, though the company is not quite in a position yet to publish or release data. He did say they are seeing significant differences between the control and trial groups.

"More than the numerical difference, we’re looking for a difference that’s large enough to significantly drive ROI for pharma," he said. "And our preliminary results are leading us to believe the ROI is definitely there."

We've written in the past about a number of different medication adherence systems tied to smart pill bottles, pill boxes, or pill bottle caps. While some, like Nant Health's Vitality GlowCaps, have been for sale directly to the consumer, others, like AdhereTech, focus exclusively on getting into patients' hands via pharma companies or doctors.

AdhereTech goes beyond the model of medication adherence that merely focuses on reminding forgetful patients to take their pills. When an AdhereTech patient is consistently non-adherent, the system will text them asking them why and deliver that answer back to a nurse who can adjust their treatment plan accordingly. Stein thinks AdhereTech's focus on doing as much work for the patient as possible will ultimately set them apart in the burgeoning adherence hardware space.

"A lot of other devices aren’t as cognizant of the patient population they’re working with and they expect patients to do a lot of work to use their device," he said. "Our number one rule is 'Don’t make the patient do anything different.' Don’t make them set it up. Don't make them use it in any specific way. Don’t make them pay for it."