Implantable Drug Delivery Systems: Delivering Medication One Dose at a Time

September 28, 2015
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Controlled, site-specific release of drugs and other therapeutic agents has emerged as a rather attractive alternative for companies that are looking to boost the efficacy of an existing product.Thebigger winner, however, is the patient.

A significant advantage that implantable drug delivery systems render via targeted therapies is fewer side effects. An increased number of medications today have severe side effects because the drug interacts with other parts of the body when administered– parts that are not the intended targeted of the drug.

Controlled, site-specific release of drugs and other therapeutic agents has emerged as a rather attractive alternative for companies that are looking to boost the efficacy of an existing product.Thebigger winner, however, is the patient.

A significant advantage that implantable drug delivery systems render via targeted therapies is fewer side effects. An increased number of medications today have severe side effects because the drug interacts with other parts of the body when administered– parts that are not the intended targeted of the drug.

Another benefit of implantable drug delivery systems is improving medication-prescription adherence. Patients often fail to follow prescriptions, which has an adverse impact not only on personal health but also on healthcare costs. According to a 2012 report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, failure to follow prescriptions amounts to nearly US$300 billion in healthcare costs and approximately 125,000 deaths annually.

Ongoing research in the field of targeted drug delivery has made major progress in terms of implantable devices. Here’s a look at three recent developments that could help in treating chronic diseases in the near future.

Remote-Controlled Drug Delivery

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louisare building upon a previous experiment where targeted brain cells are activated with the helpof flashes of light. Researchers at these institutes have developed a device that promises to offer enhanced targeted treatments and minimal side effects. The width of a human hair, this device can be implanted in the brain to deliver drugs only in areas where they are needed.

The research team has designed the device to be soft like brain tissue to avoid neural damage and inflammation. Featuring microscale pumps and microfluid channels, the device also has four separate chambers that can carry drugs directly to the brain. In addition, the chambers will help carry inorganic light-emitting diode arrays that will shine light on targeted brain cells. The researchers say that the device is also designed to be triggered remotely using infrared technology.

With the push of a button, the implanted device could one day deliver therapies to treat depression, pain, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.

Microchip-based Device to Replace Pills and Injections

An MIT spinoff company, Microchips Biotech has developed an implantable microchip that can house large doses of medication to be delivered automatically in order to treat specific diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis. The microchip is made up of hundreds of tiny reservoirs that hold small doses of chemicals or therapeutics. Single doses of medication are released from metal membrane caps with an electric current delivered by the device, and the implantable microchip can be wirelessly programmed to release individual doses for up to 16 years.

Invented by Michael Cima and Robert Langer, both co-founders of Microchips Biotech and professors at David H. Koch Institute, the implantable, microchip-based, wirelessly controlled device was commercialized in June this year via a partnership with Teva Pharmaceutical. Even though the final design may need to get regulatory approval, it won’t be long before the device hits the shelves.

Game-Changing Drug Delivery Technology for Diabetics

In a head-to-head clinical trial, Intarcia Therapeutics’ matchstick-size implantable drug-delivery pump has just surpassed Januvia, the top-selling drug from Merck, in helping diabetic patients control blood sugar.

Loaded with a year’s supply of diabetes drug exenatide, the ITCA 650 is sub-dermally inserted into abdominal tissue where it continuously delivers the medication in small quantities. Designed to overcome the challenges of helping people stay on chronic medication, the tiny titanium device keeps levels of the drug stable in the body.

Exenatide presently needs to be injected into a diabetes patient once every week or twice daily. However, with the ITCA 650, the drug can be delivered at regular intervals for up to 12 months after a single 5-minute procedure at the doctor’s office. This once-a-year treatment holds immense potential in the booming diabetes market.

As more and more therapies are highlighting the importance of implantable devices for treatment, the incorporation of drug delivery into these devices brings with it numerous benefits over parenteral or oral dosage forms.