17 November 2008
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The capsule contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir
Delivering drugs to treat digestive tract disorders such as Crohn”s disease directly to the location of the disease means doses can be lower, reducing side effects, Philips said.
The “IPill” can also measure the local temperature and report it wirelessly to an external receiver.
The microprocessor releases its cargo of medicine at the specific spot in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where it will do the most good, sparing the rest of the body from unnecessary exposure to the drug. So far it’s just a prototype, but Philips is talking to drugmakers about using it on colon cancer and bowel inflammation.
The wireless transmitter, sends the temperature and acidity of its surroundings to an outside receiver as it travels through the GI tract over the course of a day or two. The acidity, measured by pH, of the gut decreases as the pill gets further from the stomach, and that allows researchers to pinpoint the place where the drug is needed. The plastic capsule contains a programmable microprocessor that turns on a miniature drug pump when the pH is right. The iPill can also receive signals from its outside controller.
Philips Research senior scientist Jeff Shimizu said the company is expanding its health care business, and saw a natural opportunity to use its electronics expertise to improve drug delivery. A “Camera pill” pioneered by an Israeli company is already in use to spy around inside the gut and help doctors diagnose illnesses.
While Philips’ smart pill is the same size as the camera pill – about an inch by a bit less than half an inch – Shimizu said the company may eventually be able to downsize the capsule by reducing its sensors to the scale of nanotechnology devices. But for now, Philips was just eager to get started. “We wanted something we could build right away,” he said. Precise drug delivery inside the body is a hot research area. The tactic could treat illness more effectively and also could allow the use of lower doses that minimise side effects.
Shimizu said the iPill might make its commercial debut as a research tool for drug developers, at a cost of as much as $1,000 a pill. But the cost could come down to about $10 if thousands of people were taking iPills every day.
One possible problem is keeping the minute devices out of our water supply. To do so, sewage treatment plants might someday have to screen for iPills, he said. – Reuters