Lazy or brilliant, you be the judge: Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschatt Institute are developing the technology to help us avoid the mundane task of swallowing our medicines. They hope to create a prosthetic tooth that could store several weeks worth of medicine and electronically administer the medications as needed. One possible purpose outlined by the researchers would be the controlled release of Naltrexon for patients undergoing drug-withdrawal therapy.
Swallowing pills on a regular basis is tiresome. Researchers are now developing a dental prosthesis capable of dosing drugs as required. Filled with the relevant agent, it independently releases the appropri-ate amounts into the mucous membranes in the patient’s mouth.
When were you supposed to take those pills again? And how many? Chronically ill patients are often tired of constantly having to swallow tablets, while those with dementia simply cannot cope. However, regular pill-taking is soon to become a thing of the past. Scientists in an EU consortium are developing a new prosthesis that releases the correct dosage of the required medicine on a continuous basis. This will help to avoid the peak concentrations that occur on taking pills, aggravating the side effects. What makes the Intellidrug prosthesis unique is that, unlike existing drug prostheses and implants, it is small enough to fit into two artificial molars. Inside the patient’s mouth, it is readily accessible and can easily be maintained and refilled.
The dental prosthesis consists of a drug-filled reservoir, a valve, two sensors and several electronic components, explains Dr. Oliver Scholz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT in St. Ingbert, where the sensors and electronics were developed. Saliva enters the reservoir via a membrane, dissolves part of the solid drug and flows through a small duct into the mouth cavity, where it is absorbed by the mucous membranes in the patient’s cheeks. The duct is fitted with two sensors that monitor the amount of medicine being released into the body. One is a flow sensor that measures the volume of liquid entering the mouth via the duct, while the other measures the concentration of the agent contained in the liquid. Based on the measurement results, the electronic circuit either opens or closes a valve at the end of the duct to control the dosage. If the agent has been used up, the electronic system alerts the patient via a remote control, which was also developed at the IBMT. This control permits wireless operation of Intellidrug, and can be used by the patient or doctor to set the dosage required.
The patient has to have the agent refilled every few weeks. This could be done using a deposit system whereby the patient swaps the empty prosthesis for a newly refilled one. At the same time, the battery could be replaced and the device could be serviced, says Scholz. The researchers will present a prototype for the first time at the MedTec trade fair in Stuttgart from February 27 to March 1 (Hall 5.0, Stand 1327). Intellidrug is to undergo clinical testing this year — filled with a drug called Naltrexon, which is taken by drug addicts undergoing with-drawal therapy.
We are simultaneously awed and skeptical about this remote-controlled oral dispensary. On the one hand, it’s amazing to think you can have a week’s suppy of meds stored away in your mouth, being slowly released to avoid all the pitfalls of oral meds. On the other hand, could you imagine misplacing the remote control to your mouth’s medication dispenser? Or getting it covered in Cheez Doodles to the point it can’t release its lifesaving goodies? Or cracking it open on a walnut and getting all your meds at once?
When it comes to adopting this technology, we’re not sure the public will bite. Maybe we’re just getting long in the tooth, but we’d like to hear much molar, you know, for us to chew on.
Press Release . . .
Fraunhofer homepage . . .
(hat tip: Gizmodo)