New smart pill pinpoints drug release

Articles
December 15, 2008

New smart pill pinpoints drug release

Imagine that drug researchers today, and clinicians in the future, will have a precise ability to pinpoint drug release within a patient’s body to achieve maximum therapeutic effect with minimum unpleasantness. A new intelligent pill is in prototype from Philips Electronics, the Dutch manufacturer of televisions, cordless phones and other communications devices. And it just might be a device that comes along at the right time to treat the increasing incidence of Crohn’s Disease, colitis, colon cancer and other digestive tract disorders. Dubbed the iPill, the electronic drug delivery system is unique. The size of a multivitamin, a person swallows it with food or water. As it is carried naturally through the gut, it sends its location to a control unit outside the body, via a wireless transceiver. It also tells the temperature and acidity of its surroundings (pH value rises sharply when exiting the stomach, and becomes progressively alkaline from the upper intestine moving forward).

Imagine that drug researchers today, and clinicians in the future, will have a precise ability to pinpoint drug release within a patient’s body to achieve maximum therapeutic effect with minimum unpleasantness.

A new intelligent pill is in prototype from Philips Electronics, the Dutch manufacturer of televisions, cordless phones and other communications devices. And it just might be a device that comes along at the right time to treat the increasing incidence of Crohn’s Disease, colitis, colon cancer and other digestive tract disorders.

Dubbed the iPill, the electronic drug delivery system is unique. The size of a multivitamin, a person swallows it with food or water. As it is carried naturally through the gut, it sends its location to a control unit outside the body, via a wireless transceiver. It also tells the temperature and acidity of its surroundings (pH value rises sharply when exiting the stomach, and becomes progressively alkaline from the upper intestine moving forward).

When the iPill reaches target location, a pre-programmed microprocessor activates the iPill’s miniature drug pump to deliver a burst, progressive release or multi-location dosing.  “In addition to the potential benefits of this new technology to improve patient therapy, the iPill promises to be a valuable research tool for the development of any new drug that is delivered via the intestinal tract,” said Philips Research on its web site.

Similar robotic capsules with built-in cameras have been developed for colon endoscopy, but the iPill is the first to be able to deliver drugs, noted the Discover magazine blog.  At $1,000 a pill, it is initially a research tool, but eventually more widespread therapeutic uses could plummet that price.

This discovery opens up a fascinating area to explore, believes SupermarketGuru.com. Giving patients just the right targeted doses to treat difficult ailments could possibly expedite treatments while sparing the rest of the body from side effects, and hopefully precluding the need for more radical procedures.