Swallow-able Medical Microchip Gets FDA Approval
A tiny electronic chip, made to get embedded in pills and record whether patients have taken their medications, has earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. From inside the stomach, the chip communicates with people's smartphones, showing them a record of when they took their pills and potentially allowing them to share that data with their doctors. It's is the world's first FDA-approved ingestible device, according to Nature News.
The chip is about 1 millimeter square and is made mostly of silicon, along with magnesium and copper, according to the website of its maker, Proteus Digital Health of Redwood City, Calif. Once the device reaches the stomach, it uses its metals as electrodes and stomach fluid as its acid to generate power. In a video, Proteus compared the device's chemical reaction to a potato battery's.
That stomach battery-generated power allows the chip to communicate with an electronic patch that patients wear on their skin. The patch records which medication the chip came from, when the chip reached the stomach, heart rate and activity levels. The patch then sends that information to the wearer's smartphone, where he can download an app to see the data. Patients can share also choose to share their chip data with their caretakers and doctors.
Chips like this can help doctors track whether patients take their pills. George Savage, co-founder of Proteus, told Nature News that the point isn't for doctors to penalize people for not taking their medicines. Doctors could try different doses or different medicines if they realize some patients aren't taking their pills, Savage said. [Tech Can Provide the Tonic for Wasteful Medicine]
So far, the FDA, as well as the European Medicines Agency, have approved the Proteus chip based only on studies that show the device is safe and effective inside placebo pills, Nature News reported. Proteus still needs to earn approval for putting the devices inside real drugs. Drugs for tuberculosis, diabetes and the chronic diseases of the elderly are top choices, Savage said.
"There are so many of these new technologies coming along," Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translation Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told Nature News. Topol wrote a book about digital medicine, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, in 2010. "It's going to be a new frontier for rendering care."