Needle-Free Medicine Coming Soon
If you’re afraid of needles, going to the Doctor or receiving emergency treatment isn’t something you look forward to. In fact, for those who suffer from a needle phobia, it can be downright terrifying. Luckily, you might not have to wait too long before needle-free treatment is the new normal.
For years, Doctors and the medical community have all agreed that injections are the best way to deliver vaccines and other drugs. Some of these drugs will break down in the stomach and digestive tract so they can’t be taken orally. But, needles can be scary, especially for children but even adults can suffer from a fear of needles. Injectable medication has to be stored at cold temperatures and has a short shelf life. They can be difficult to maintain and replace so pharmaceutical companies across the world have been working to develop a delivery system for drugs that doesn’t include needles.
First up as a solution, is the science fiction sounding ‘robotic pill’. Simply put, the robotic pill is coated in polymer while the drug is stored inside tiny needles made of sugar. Once the coating dissolves, two separate compartments, one containing citric acid and the other containing baking soda, react and create carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide inflates a tiny balloon that pushes the sugar needles against the intestinal wall, releasing the medication. This solves the problem of a drug being broken down by the harsh environment inside the stomach. And, don’t worry about what happens to the rest of the pill: your body harmlessly and easily expels it with the rest of your waste.
A better option and one that might be here sooner than robotic pills, has been under development by pharmaceutical company, Catalent. Catalent is working on developing a freeze-dried tablet that will dissolve on a patient’s tongue in about five seconds. The drug is then distributed throughout your body through the membrane under your tongue and into the bloodstream. Tests have already begun distributing the flu vaccine via mice and the tablets, which are currently named Zydis, have a shelf life of up to five years – making them affordable and practical.
Another futuristic sounding delivery device are patches that stick to the skin with hundreds of tiny needles. Currently being tested by CDC in collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology, these micro-needle patches are so thin that patients cannot feel them. When they are pressed into the skin, the micro-needles activate and deliver the drugs via the epidermis. These patches could make it easier to deliver much needed drugs and vaccines to remote areas or areas that are hit by natural disasters. Multinational corporation 3M, is developing their own version of the micro-needle, though both the 3M version and the CDC’s version are not expected to be ready for testing until 2017.
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