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Patients with diseases such as diabetes and prostate cancer or who need long-term regimens of painkillers, chemotherapy, or hormones often find it difficult to take their medication as prescribed. When it’s imperative that different medications are taken in the correct amounts at the right times, adherence can become a struggle. Intravenous drug delivery is at times constraining if the person is bound to one location or cumbersome with a wearable pump.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are developing a magnetic drug implant as an alternative to pills or intravenous injections. The current version of the implant is 6 mm (about a quarter of an inch) in diameter and is surgically implanted in the specific treatment area in the body after the drug is injected into the device. The implant is constructed of a silicone sponge with magnetic carbonyl iron particles wrapped around a round polymer layer. The drug is released when a magnet is passed over the implant location, which causes the sponge to deform. Changing the size of the magnet changes the size of the dose.

So far the researchers have tested the magnetic implant on animal tissue. Results to date have shown the correct dosage can be released and that the medication stored in the device can remain effective. The next steps include refining the device and narrowing the application conditions.