Automatic drug administration to help the chronically ill
A prosthetic tooth could soon help patients to follow treatment by releasing controlled doses of medication at regular intervals, the tooth was developed within the framework of the EU-funded
project IntelliDrug (Intelligent intra-oral medicine delivery micro-system to treat addiction and chronic diseases), which has recently been completed.
Studies indicate that 50% of patients do not take their medicine because they either forget or do not consider it necessary. In addition, there are those patients that take the drugs at the
wrong time or take the wrong dose.
About the size of two molars, the prosthetic contains a reservoir and a release mechanism, a programmable circuit, micro-sensors, micro-actuators and batteries. It can be controlled by
infrared, so that the settings can be adjusted at any time. However, the IntelliDrug team hopes to replace infrared by radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and later GSM telephony.
The batteries should last three months and the reservoir would have to be refilled every week to every month, depending on drug and dosage.
The researchers chose the mouth because ‘the oral cavity is very accessible, so the device can be easily installed, refilled or have its batteries replaced,’ says engineer and project manager
Ben Beiski of ASSUTA Medical Centres in Israel. ‘But passing the drug through the buccal (cheek) tissue also means much greater bioavailability.’
The body is able to absorb substances quickly and effectively through the tissue in the mouth. Conventionally administered drugs which are simply swallowed often lose some of their
effectiveness on their way through the gastrointestinal tract before they eventually hit the bloodstream. As a result, drug doses administered via the cheek tissue can be smaller.
The system has already been successfully tested on pigs. In November 2007, it entered human trial: Twelve volunteers are following naltrexone therapy, an opiate blocker used in heroin addition
treatment. Following this trial, the IntelliDrug system could be on the market in around three years, where it would benefit chronically ill patients suffering from high blood pressure, chronic
pain or diabetics most.
The IntelliDrug project brought together 15 partners from six countries, including Israel, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Italy. It received ?2 million in EU-funding under the Sixth
Framework Programme (FP6).
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