Remote-Controlled Drug Device Could Deliver Chemo at Home

Seven women suffering from osteoporosis got the chance to avoid their usual visits to the doctor for their injected medicines. Instead, their physician administered treatment remotely through an implant that pumped meds into their systems on demand while the patients rested at home.

As part of a clinical trial, the women received abdominal implants made by MicroCHIPS, a company in Waltham, Massachusetts. Over a period of four months, they delivered 20 daily doses of a hormone treatment called teriparatide, which improves bone formation and reduces the risk of fracture. The study, which was performed in Denmark, showed that the remote injections worked just as well as in-person injections.

The work was presented on the first day of the enormous annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, which started yesterday in Vancouver, B.C. The research is published in the February 15 issue of Science Translational Medicine. The device has to clear two more FDA clinical trials before it's approved, which the company hopes will happen by 2016.

This seems in lots of ways like a fantastic idea. It could work for multiple sclerosis, cancer, and chronic pain, making it a lot more convenient for patients to get treatment. It also allows doctors to deliver more precise doses of medicine over time. (They say it won't work for insulin, though, to treat diabetes because the doses are too large).

I might feel a little freaked out though to have a device implanted inside my body that someone on the other side of town can control. What if someone sits on the button by accident or forgets to push it altogether? Part of the idea is that the patient is freed from having to remember to take his or her medicine, which would be really great for elderly people. I think I would like it better if I could control it myself. [AAAS via Financial Times]

Image: MicroCHIPS