Individuals living with chronic health conditions may find it difficult to remember to take their medications at the correct time every day. Sometimes, they may even discontinue use of beneficial medications due the inconvenience and discomfort of having to self-administer regular injections. Thanks to advances in medical technology, however, that may all be changing.
Medical implants for administering drugs have been available for some time and are constantly improving and evolving. These devices are implanted under a patient’s skin and can deliver medications according to a preset schedule, or release them slowly over time to avoid the spikes and drops in blood levels associated with other forms of ingestion. Some devices can even be controlled remotely. Given the many potential benefits of these implants, their use may become more and more common in coming years.
Here are five things pharmaceutical students should know about drug delivery implants.
1. Drug Delivery Implants Can Solve Issues with Non-Compliance
Individuals suffering from osteoporosis, a disease causing decreased bone density, are often prescribed something known as parathyroid hormone. While it can significantly benefit health outcomes for patients, the drug requires a two-year regimen of daily injections. Because of the burden of administering the drug, nearly a quarter of all patients regularly miss injections or drop off their treatment entirely.
In cases like this, an implant can be set to automatically release the drug as needed, improving health outcomes for patients while lessening the burden of treatment. Current models of the device can hold about twenty doses, but may someday contain a full year’s prescription.
2. Students in Pharmaceutical School Should Know About the Safety of Drug Delivery Implants
Some have expressed concern about implants’ reliability and their potential susceptibility to hacking. Students in pharmaceutical quality control should know that the design of drug-emitting implants is unlikely to pose major safety concerns, though. There are protections against hacking built into wireless implants, such as their use of a special band for communication, and their need for a unique ID number to establish connections.
3. Drug Delivery Implants Could Be Useful in Preventing and Fighting Painkiller Addiction
Opioids are one of the most effective medications available for treating severe and chronic pain, but they come with a notoriously high risk of addiction. Implants might be effective in providing a steadier form of pain control while lowering that risk, however, by taking dosage quantity and frequency out of a patient’s control, and disrupting the formation of potentially dangerous habits. Buprenorphine implants, which slowly release a withdrawal-reducing drug over an extended period, have also shown promise in treating opioid addiction.
4. Some Drugs May not Be Suitable for Implants
Students in pharmaceutical school should know that implants won’t work for everything. Some drugs may irritate the surrounding tissue, and some require doses too large to store under the skin. Other drugs may last a year or more in controlled, dry, cool environments, but won’t survive extended periods at human body temperature. Medications will have to be looked at individually to judge whether they’re suitable for being delivered via implant.
5. This Could Be Only the Beginning for Drug Delivery Implants
While early results with implants have been impressive, the future could have much more in store for this novel form of drug administration. Researchers are currently developing implants capable of monitoring the body and responding with appropriate dosages in real time. This could be used to monitor blood glucose levels, for example, automatically administering the correct amount of life-saving insulin.
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Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) for more information.