How Wireless Drug Delivery Works

Wireless Drug Delivery: For Everyone?

Despite the convenience of wireless drug delivery, it's probably not the best option for when your average Joe comes down with a cold.

People who could benefit the most from the technology have chronic medical conditions that require regular treatment. Experts say the devices could prove their worth for patients with osteoporosis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis [source: Farra]. There's also the potential for patients to use the wireless treatments for pain management and to treat certain ear injuries [source: Greenemeier].

For illnesses that require injections, needle treatments can take a toll both physically and mentally [source: LaVan]. Wireless drug delivery would be an option that could take away some of the stresses of receiving these treatments. However, dose size remains a drawback for the implants. If a patient needs a relatively large dose of medicine for each treatment, he or she probably wouldn't benefit from having a wireless implant just yet.

Scientists also hope to develop implantable sensors that can keep track of a patient's condition and send a signal to another device when treatment becomes necessary. Most treatments are being tested with adults, but the technology could also be used in children someday [source: Farra].

By now, you may be thinking, "Can an implant get sidetracked from someone hacking it?"

The truth is these companies make wireless products that are difficult to hack or take control of. Robert Farra, president of MicroCHIPS, says each of the company's devices has its own unique ID and radio frequency. The first microchips could only be signaled from inches away, while others might be activated from up to 4 meters (about 13 feet) away [source: Farra].

Worried about an implant going AWOL? Scientists who develop the technology also think about this, which is why devices are carefully programmed and managed.

With all the different types of medicines out there, it's also hard to fathom storing them in wireless drug-delivery devices. Some drugs are less stable and lose their effectiveness when kept a certain amount of time or in warmer temperatures. There's also the concern of patients having a bad immune system response to the implant. In general, implants being tested are made of the same bio-friendly materials used in other devices such as pacemakers.

With more developments, researchers may be able to tailor wireless treatment to each person, placing a cocktail of drugs in devices that can be released at the doctor's orders -- akin to a personal pharmacy, but on a microchip.