Let me introduce you to the next generation of pills. Electronics maker Philips has announced the development of an intelligent pill, the iPill, that has the potential to release drugs exactly where they are needed in the gut. The iPill is a capsule, the same size as a camera pill, that has been designed to be swallowed and to pass through the digestive track naturally. The purpose of the pill is to release medication closer to the source of the problem, in a specific area of the body, resulting in more effective treatment. This development has great future potential.
Digestive tract disorders such as Crohn’s disease, colitis and colon cancer are becoming increasingly common, particularly in the western world. Crohn’s disease and colitis can be treated with drugs, notably steroids, but many of these drugs have adverse and unpleasant side-effects for patients when administered systemically. While capsules containing miniature cameras are already used as diagnostic tools, they lack the ability to deliver drugs. The iPill uses a tiny microprocessor, battery and wireless radio to control a built-in medication reservoir. It has a sensor that gauges acidity in the stomach to determine it’s exact location and can be electronically programmed to control the delivery of medication. By delivering the required drugs directly to the site of disease, dose levels may be lowered and many of the side effects reduced.
Philips, which is one of the world’s biggest hospital equipment providers, will officially present it’s intelligent pill capsule later this month at a scientific meeting in Atlanta. According to the company, the iPill is ready for serial manufacturing despite still being demonstrated as a prototype.
This fascinating new development brings great hope for the future. For years, I’ve been struggling with recurrent sinus infections and abscess formation (chronic osteomyelitis) in the frontal bone of my skull. When an infection erupts, high dose systemic antibiotics are required to deliver treatment to a tiny area of my head. Doctors have often commented that one day hopefully, there will be a breakthrough in medical research which will allow for direct drug treatment in specific target areas of the body. This new iPill is the beginning of such technology and while it’s still a long way off solving my problem, it’s a step in the right direction.