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Microchip Implant Makes Remote-Controlled Drug Delivery Possible

A remote-controlled microchip that’s implanted in patients and programmed to release medication on schedule worked in its first trial, validating a new approach that could help improve drug management in chronic diseases.

The device, made by closely held MicroCHIPS Inc., based in Waltham, Massachusetts, delivered doses of a generic version of Eli Lilly & Co.’s injectable osteoporosis drug Forteo to seven women, ages 65 to 70, without adverse effects, according to a study published online today by Science Translational Medicine.

The technology is designed to provide a more convenient and accurate method of drug dosing, which could improve patient compliance in taking medicines. People with ailments such as chronic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis and conditions that require frequent drug injections would benefit from such a device, said Michael Cima, a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a study author.

“This is for drug therapies that can’t be delivered orally, so we’re replacing multiple daily injections with a single device under the skin,” Cima said in a telephone interview.

Forteo, the medication used to test the device, is usually delivered by injection. Because osteoporosis doesn’t have noticeable symptoms, and injections are uncomfortable, many patients don’t take all their medicine, Cima said.

“With osteoporosis, you don’t feel bad until you break a hip,” Cima said. “And in elderly patients, a hip fracture can be a death sentence.”

30-Minute Visit

The device was implanted during a 30-minute doctor’s visit, and remained in the patient for four months. The patients weren’t uncomfortable after the device was implanted, according to the study. There were 20 doses of the drug in the chips. MicroCHIPS is developing implants that could carry hundreds of doses, Cima said.

The microchip can be programmed remotely and would enable doctors to make adjustments to the treatment schedule when needed.

MicroCHIPS was formed based on work done by Cima and Robert Langer, another MIT scientist who co-authored the paper. Cima is on the scientific advisory board of the company. The company is headed by another study author, Robert Farra.

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