Philips’ iPill Has CPU, Can Dispense Drugs

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Back in 2001, the FDA approved Philips’ camera pill, a small capsule designed to take pictures as it passes harmlessly through the digestive tract. Previously, the only way to take a look at someone’s small intestine was though invasive endoscopic procedures; the swallowable camera pill enabled physicians to make direct diagnoses without even minor surgery, and enabled them to see the entire digestive tract, not just the 20-or-so feet accessible to an endoscope.

Now, Philips is at it again, taking the same swallowable capsule design and outfitting it with new gear. Announced at the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists this week in Atlanta, Philips’ new “intelligent pill,” or iPill, is the same size as the camera pill and is designed to pass harmlessly through the digestive tract. However, the iPill includes a microprocessor, battery, pH and temperature sensors, an RF wireless transceiver, a drug reservoir, and a fluid pump. The idea is that the pill is smart enough to determine its location in the digestive tract—by measuring pH and temperature—and release precise dosages of medication at the site of a disease or condition. The iPill can be programmed to release a burst of medication, emit medication progressively over a longer period, or even release medication at multiple locations.

The iPill is currently in a prototype stage, but the system has been verified through in-vitro testing—which means some lucky folks have already swallowed them.

Coming next? Perhaps an iPhone application to control the iPill, enabling Web developers and insane Twitters to precisely deliver caffiene bursts when they need them most!