Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Case Western Reserve University and Harvard developed a remote programmable microchip that can be implanted to dispense teriparatide (Forteo ®) for patients at high risk for fracture. The scientists and two commercial companies tested this on a group of women, between 65 and 70 with osteoporosis, and all those tested received the correct amount of medication with no serious side effects. The cooperative group who developed this device remains cautiously optimistic for its use in treating osteoporosis.
There are implantable devices that can deliver cancer drugs and pain meds so developing one for a drug that is hard to administer will make it much easier since the alternative, for Forteo, is a daily injection for two years.
Compliance has always been a problem with meds, especially in those who are elderly. If this microchip eliminates compliance problems and the down-side of a daily injection, this would be fantastic, provided most insurance companies cover it.
Teriparatide is a daily injection of 20 micrograms of man-made parathyroid hormone, given for two years and is very expensive. Currently the retail cost is approximately $1,200.00 a month. Due to the cost of this expensive drug, most insurance companies either cover it at a high co pay, don't cover it at all or at what some might consider a reasonable price. Many of the patients getting injectable teriparatide are on Medicare, and most-not all-part D plans don't cover it. If you are one of the lucky ones, it's covered, but many can't afford the co pay. Eli Lily does have a patient assistance program, but you'll have to check to see if you qualify.
If you look at the cost of implanting this chip and then add the cost of the drug, the price to implant and monitor, plus hospital charges, doctor etc., I can't imagine any insurance company covering this. I hope I'm completely wrong, but it seems rather unlikely.
I took Forteo (teriparatide) for two years and did really well. I didn't experience any side effects and it improved my t-scores from -3.6 (established osteoporosis) to -1.9 (osteopenia) in one year. At the end of my second year my scores remained the same. I finished this treatment four years ago, and my scores have only changed by less than one standard deviation point and I'm still in the osteopenia range. When I started it I had 6 previous spinal fractures, and none since. Is this due to the drug? Who knows?
Will this microchip help with non-compliant patients since that's the main reason to try it? I suppose it will, and it will eliminate the daily injection for two years, so it has its benefits. But we also have a teriparatide patch and nasal spray in the works, which I would imagine would be less expensive. Both applications would eliminate the daily injection which seems to be the biggest plus.
Keep in mind that the injection of Forteo is nothing like a regular injection. The needle is the size of an eye lash and it's given sub q (just below the skin) and you can hardly feel it. I guess I'm saying the shot for two years isn't that bad; it's the cost that's so prohibitive.
We'll see what happens with this and whether or not it seems feasible that insurance companies would cover it, down the road. I do hope this pans out since it has its benefits; but I wonder if the teriparatide patch or nasal spray will be less invasive and less expensive.
The MIT microchip (c) M. Scott Brauer MIT