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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Microchip 'could do away with pills'
By Ania Lichtarowicz
BBC health reporter

Scientists in the United States have developed a new way of taking medicines which could improve the effectiveness of some treatments including HIV therapy.

Aids drugs
Swallowing pills could become a thing of the past
Writing in the journal Nature Materials they describe a drug-containing microchip which can be implanted in the body.

This then releases the medication slowly so the patient no longer has to take any pills.

Most drugs are still taken orally - but this has drawbacks, the biggest one being human error.

Simply forgetting to take your medicine can seriously affect how well a medicine works.

So this new microchip, which is just over a centimetre in length, could provide a way of delivering exactly the right dose at exactly the right time, therefore making the drug work as well as possible.

Keeping track

The chip's surface is covered in little grooves, where drugs can be loaded.

It is then covered with different types of polymer which slowly biodegrade releasing each dose at a different time.

This type of drug delivery could be very useful for patients who have to take many different tablets at specific times each day for instance those with HIV.

It could also help patients suffering from dementia who cannot remember when to take their drugs.

So far the researchers have tested the chip in the lab with the anti-clotting agent heparin.

They found that just one chip can be used for up to 140 days.

If this works as well for other drugs then clinical trials of the new implant will start soon.


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