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Medicine Hardware

Pharmacy On-a-chip Dispenses Drugs Automatically 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-for-your-medicine dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The idea is simple — load up a microchip with a whole pharmacy of drugs that are dispensed as needed automatically. The devil has been in the details, since mistakes could kill the patient if, say, a leak developed dumping dangerous cocktails into the bloodstream. This MIT sponsored company, however, claims to have perfected wireless control of a pharmacy-on-a-chip and has just completed the clinical trials to prove it. The test microchip has just 20 doses of a single drug, but their new prototype will house thousands of pin-prick sized drug reservoirs, after which they will seek FDA approval. The elderly (who have complicated drug regime) and soldiers could both benefit from these smart pharmacies-on-a-chip, since drugs can be dispensed even if the patient is unconscious."
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Pharmacy On-a-chip Dispenses Drugs Automatically

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  • by Shavano (2541114) on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:45AM (#39071077)

    Until somebody hacks it. Then one morning 100,000 elderly people don't wake up.

  • I'm terrified. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eparker05 (1738842) on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:48AM (#39071085)

    From TFA:
    "This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens."

    I say this jokingly now, but first they will start using it on psychotic people who will not self administer. Then.... who knows.

    • Re:I'm terrified. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by demonlapin (527802) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:36AM (#39071343) Homepage Journal
      Of course, the practical limit here is just how much drug can be stored in one. Very few drugs work at even the microgram level. If you take three drugs at 20 mg/day each, that's over a gram in two and a half weeks. A three-month supply will need five grams of drugs - at which point you're talking about a pretty substantial implant.
      • And that's also ignoring the fundamental inefficiency of having a great many drugs on each chip, which will never be used. If there's 100 drugs on a chip, and only 10 drugs get dispensed by one chip, then that's wasting 90% of globally available drug reserves.
        • by mcavic (2007672)
          So much better for the drug companies. But you don't have to load it up with that many drugs. By filling it to capacity with just the drugs you need, you'd lengthen your time between refills.

          But then, filling is the big problem. How do you guarantee that all those little reservoirs have the right drugs in them?
      • by Trecares (416205)

        That depends on the bioavailability of the drug in question.

        See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioavailability [wikipedia.org]

        Most of the drugs you get are mostly filler / carrier mediums. Internally, you can just have the pure drug itself, reducing the required dosage.

        What I don't see is a easy way to package multiple drugs on a single implant without custom making each implant which I think is cost prohibitive. Standardized cocktails would be a different story.

        I'm surprised they didn't go with some sort of tiny metering sy

        • by dkf (304284)

          I'm surprised they didn't go with some sort of tiny metering system such as with a plunger and miniature stepper motor. That way it could be refillable (syringe) without having to cut the patient open every so often to replace the unit.

          Depends on the likelihood of the various failure modes, surely? The simple system on a chip which they're talking about should be easier to make robust than something with complex pumps and moving parts. (To say nothing of the complexity of working with microfluidics; viscosity is a major problem as you scale down...)

    • Re:I'm terrified. (Score:5, Informative)

      by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertouristNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:05AM (#39072133)

      I know that the 'slippery slope' argument is a Slashdot staple, but really?

      Automated drug regimens would be a boon to many people who now for one reason or another forget/skip/whatever. Psychosis, dementia, Alzheimer, ADD, brain damage, the list is long and distinguished.

      Having been around a few people who tend to forget their medication, this would be a substantial improvement in their quality of life and that of the people around them.

      • Great point, but it's a slippery slope. That slope doesn't exist in a vacuum. If you pay any attention at all at what is going on around you, then you necessarily have to be concerned about where this is likely to go. It is all very well to take a positive attitude and say: Hey, this nuclear reaction stuff is great! Think of the possibilities for making a better life for mankind!, but to do so without also remembering Hiroshima is foolish at best.
  • Uh oh! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:51AM (#39071099) Homepage

    I bet the robot insurance premiums will go up as, as robots would next be ripping old folks limbs off to get at their prescription drugs.

  • by Dr_Banzai (111657) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:14AM (#39071235) Homepage
    Reminds me of the drug glands in Iain M. Banks' Culture series. Any citizen can dose on one of 300 psychoactive substances just by thinking about it.
    • It reminded me first of Ira Levin's 'This perfect day'. Poor Chip won't get away with fooling the treatment unit anymore to avoid his mandatory dose.
  • all your drugs are belong to us!

  • The issue is that it is not possible to fit huge amounts of drugs inside of these kinds of chips. Of course, there is no need for capsules or such, nor any extra ingredients to make sure that the drug passes into the bloodstream properly as these drugs aren't ingested, they're injected straight into body and as such the drugs do not take as much space as conventional ones. But there is still only a limited amount of space there.

    With that in mind, I could definitely see these used in situations where the dru

    • 1. spend more money on sidewalks, crosswalks, walking + bicycle paths, and safe intersections

      2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

      3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

      i realize diabetes is often genetic. but often its lifestyle based. and that lifestyle is not the result of 'free choice', its the result of urban planners and social engineers wh

      • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie.hotmail@com> on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:25AM (#39071287) Homepage

        2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

        Here in Finland they've already raised prices on sugary products, like e.g. chocolate and other candy. Haven't had any effect though, people are just spending more money now while still eating the same amount of it. Doesn't work.

        3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

        A lot easier said than done.

      • You're talking about type 2 diabetes, which is a problem but almost never quickly results in an immediately life-threatening state. Type 1 diabetes can and does, but it's a much more difficult disease to manage.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          What's more Type 2 does not normally need insulin and can often be treated by tablets that stimulate the pancreas as well as diet and exercise (less fats and raw sugars mean less problem, exercise assists what insulin the body does make).

          Type 1 the body simply stops making insulin and you need to inject it (stomach destroys it so no tablets). There are currently machines that do subcutaneous infusions, and will measure blood sugar levels. There do not seem to be any (in my search) which work like the pancre

      • Also,

        3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

        is impossible. Doctors can't control what people eat, nor how often they exercise.

      • It is interesting that you think that what people eat, how much they exercise and whether they walk or drive is not dependent on personal choice but on the work of "social engineers". If that really is the case then that is a far bigger problem than diabetes.

      • by HBI (604924)

        Why the parent post isn't moderated into oblivion, I have no idea. It's stupid and offensive.

        The cause of diabetes is not eating too much. Get that through your head. Any random person will not automatically become diabetic by eating like a pig. Period.

        Then, consider that part of the reason people eat badly is the endocrine system misfiring and causing them to be hungry when they shouldn't be. But that's their fault according to you. Asshole.

        You'll have to let me know about some condition you or someo

      • I can speak to item number 3.
        I have 3 family members that are doctors, and diabetic patients (of the Type-II sort) form their most frustrating class of patients. Patient compliance is terrible when it comes to that disease, as the changes are purely lifestyle and the patients just don't want to give up their sugar or exercise. It absolutely drives my family members nuts, as they talk about how these people are killing themselves, and they just can't convince them to do anything about it. Even worse are pe
      • by slyrat (1143997)

        1. spend more money on sidewalks, crosswalks, walking + bicycle paths, and safe intersections

        2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

        3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

        i realize diabetes is often genetic. but often its lifestyle based. and that lifestyle is not the result of 'free choice', its the result of urban planners and social engineers who believe in profit over everything else.

        So first of all this only considers type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a completely different beast with similar results in blood sugar. So you still will end up with type 1 diabetics that require insulin to eat any carbohydrates. It also should be known that when you are getting low in blood sugar it is food you need, not insulin. It is cases like this where I wish the two types were actually called different diseases. Ah well, not much one can do about it at this point.

        It also should be known that ther

  • by ajlisows (768780) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:20AM (#39071273)

    The self destructive side of me has finally had his prayers answered! Now to find a hack to cut off the portion control....

  • The eyes of Heisenberg are upon us.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Automatic medical system engaged
    Morphine administered

  • Dope people up with the push of a button. What a marvelous idea! Calm the masses.

    Great for school teachers. Is that kid in the third row acting up again? Push a button to Ritalin or Adderall him up.

    When your drug dispenser runs low, it will pump you up with a last dose that turns you into a zombie, and instructs you to return home for refilling.

  • Now we just need to integrate apps (like this one: http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/02/17/004229/optimizing-your-caffeine-intake-with-an-app [slashdot.org]) that run fancy portable gadgets like cell phones, so our computers can automatically give us our drug(s) of choice at specific time intervals, with no need to pop pills, shoot up, smoke a bowl of weed, hit some Salvia, pop open a beer, or crack a can of Coke. A never-ending high that needs no work to keep up the buzz. Just keep your portable device with you and

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Speaking as a registered nurse, I can assure you that this gadget was thought up by engineers and not by anyone in the medical field.

    Somewhat less sophisticated things already exist and are in use: insulin pumps and pain pumps come immediately to mind.
    They don't automatically administer a cocktail of drugs, though: in the case of most insulin pumps, they can give what's called a basal rate (a few units of insulin per hour, for example), and the patient checks their blood sugar at meal times and inputs the n

  • Seriously though, how many drugs have come out, then 7 years later been re-introduced with an Extended Release, Extra Strength, or a Cooperative form?! I know damn near everything I've ever taken has come out in forms like Extra Strength, or Extended release, or some such sub-variety. This is just another way for drug companies to make the big bucks off of their 33 cent a bottle pharmaceutical concoctions for years to come!

    They don't research the next cure for cancer, they research the next bloody exten
  • Something here seriously reminds me of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syndicate_(video_game) [wikipedia.org].

    But I can't put my finger on it.

  • This way, I can start the week with some happy pills to get through work and end it friday with a high dose of coffein - totally automated! Amazing!
  • I just finished reading Transmetropolitan last night. It's very strange to go to bed reading about this subject in science fiction, then wake up the next morning and find out it's actually been developed.
  • by tomhath (637240) on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:40AM (#39073191)

    I was once told that even with medication in pill form, roughly 1/3 of prescriptions are never filled and another 1/3 are filled but the patient never takes them.

    As the article states, getting a patient to take drugs which require daily (or multiple times per day) injections is very difficult. For obvious reasons people just don't want to stick themselves with needles, elderly patients forget, some drugs need to be given so frequently the patient has to be wakened every couple of hours, etc.

  • Can I combine it with...
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/02/17/004229/optimizing-your-caffeine-intake-with-an-app [slashdot.org]

    No need to use a cup anymore! Just caffeine straight to the blood stream! :D

  • I keep seeing references to tech in mass effect.

    There was a previous article about a gel that help healed bone fractures and other things from weeks into days.
    Now if you can automatically administer it, soldiers will where suits like in mass effect and wala, the future :P

  • Geeks and Rohypnol. Get ready for a whole new generation of ugly smart people.
  • As soon as this tech is perfected, it should become illegal to prescribe antibiotics to humans via any other method.

    That way, we might have a chance of newer antibiotics still being useful after a while.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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