Remotely controlled contraceptive is a turn-on

Why be on the pill when you can be on the chip? Medical technology firm MicroCHIPS is working on a 20mm-long birth control device that can be implanted intradermally and programmed to release an hormone called levonorgestrel -the same used in birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and Plan B also (known as the ‘morning after pill’). The chip could also release a combination of progestin and estrogen, just like some birth control methods do. In either case, this preloaded hormonal contraception device would release a consistent dose at the same time every day, which could be adjusted or even stopped wirelessly by a doctor. That’s right; it could be turned on and off via control remote.

The only caveat so far is that potential users will have to wait 3 to 4 years until the product is released, provided it gets FDA approval. However, once it’s available to the public, it will provide a better alternative to the current contraceptive implants that are inserted into the arm and have a useful life of 3-5 years. The MicroCHIPS implant will at least match that by lasting five years at first, with the possibility of prolonging its effectiveness to 16 years, which would allow it to outlast non-hormonal copper intrauterine devices by four years as well. The chip is currently undergoing safety, efficacy, and security tests.

But that’s not at all. The technology -spearheaded by MicroCHIPS board of director members and MIT researchers Robert Langer and Michael Cima, and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, no less- could be applied to other medications, making it the be-all, end-all of patient compliance. In fact, the original trial back in 2012 involved implanting a chip under the skin below the waistlines of eight female osteoporosis patients. The device administered regular doses of a normally injected osteoporosis medication over a period of four months. The results confirmed that the method was not only safe but effective.

MicroCHIPS CEO Bradley Paddock calls the implantable drug delivery device “the greatest advancement in delivering medicine” since 1876. As for Langer, the sky’s the limit. Currently in development is a device for chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and eventually rescue chips that deliver heart attack, stroke, or allergy medications. As Langer puts it, device that protect instable drugs and even send data to hospitals and doctors could result in all sorts of new therapies.