Dr. Microchip: Implantable device effectively delivers drugs

Device treated osteoporosis patients as successfully as injections

In a finding that could revolutionize drug delivery, a new study in Science Translational Medicine showed that a wireless, implantable microchip successfully administered medication to a small group of osteoporosis patients.

The fingertip-sized chip—developed by Massachusetts-based MicroChips Inc.—is designed to release medication in large amounts on demand, much like an injection. The chip can be activated remotely by phone or computer using a dedicated radiofrequency.

Chip keeps pace with standard treatment regimen
For the study, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers and colleagues implanted the microchip near the waistline of seven women—between the ages of 65 and 70—who had been treating their osteoporosis with daily injections of teriparatide. Overall, the researchers instructed the device to deliver 20 timed doses of treatment.

According to the findings—which were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting this week—the chip delivered the drug as effectively as injections and produced similar bone formation results after 12 months. Compared with the typical 24-month osteoporosis treatment regimen, the researchers said the microchip increased patient compliance from 25% to 100%.

"The major advantage of the chip is that the patient takes every dose that is prescribed," says Robert Neer, a study coauthor and director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Bone Density Center. "The chip is more reliable than the patient."

Looking ahead
Robert Farra, president of MicroChips and lead author of the study, said the company expects to develop a chip with 365 reservoirs—enough to deliver medication daily for one year—within roughly two years and win regulatory approval for the device by the end of the decade.

In addition to treating osteoporosis, the company says the chip also could be used to deliver medication in multiple sclerosis and chronic pain patients. However, the chip may not be ideal for treating diabetes, since patients typically require more insulin daily than what will fit in the device's reservoirs, the Wall Street Journal reports (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 2/16; Brown, Los Angeles Times, 2/16; Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 2/17; Salamon, HealthDay, 2/16).

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