Curious robotic syringe-in-a-pill completes successful human trial

The RaniPill is another syringe that you can swallow to deliver drugs to the bloodstream from the inside. It's triggered by an interesting and complex mechanism involving a chemical reaction that inflates a tiny polymer balloon to push the needle into the intestinal wall. Rani Therapeutics just completed a successful 20-person trial using a pill that shoots blanks. From IEEE Spectrum:

Working from the outside in, the RaniPill consists of a special coating that protects the pill from the stomach’s acidic juices. Then, as the pill is pushed into the intestines and pH levels rise to about 6.5, the coating dissolves to reveal a deflated biocompatible polymer balloon.

Upon exposure to the intestinal environment, a tiny pinch point made of sugar inside the balloon dissolves, causing two chemicals trapped on either side of the pinch point to mix and produce carbon dioxide. That gas inflates the balloon, and the pressure of the inflating balloon pushes a dissolvable microneedle filled with a drug of choice into the wall of the intestines. Human intestines lack sharp pain receptors, so the micro-shot is painless.

The intestinal wall does, however, have lots and lots of blood vessels, so the drug is quickly taken up into the bloodstream, according to the company’s animal studies. The needle itself dissolves...

Participants passed the remnants of the balloon within 1-4 days.

(Founder Mir) Imran calls the device a robot though it has no electrical parts and no metal. “Even though it has no brains and no electronics, it [works through] an interplay between material science and the chemistry of the body,” says Imran.

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PSA: Your birth control pills could be placebos

This one's for the ladies. According to Stat, Allegra is recalling 170,000 packs of their Taytulla birth control pills because the first four pills in each of the packs are placebos, instead of medicine that'll keep babies, severe cramping, and all the other things that the pills are typically prescribed for, at bay.

The sketchy packs are all from a single lot of pills that were doled out as samples to physicians. So if your doctor provided you with some free Taytulla birth control pills, you'll want to check their lot number.

From Allegra:

As a result of this packaging error, oral contraceptive capsules, that are taken out of sequence, may place the user at risk for contraceptive failure and unintended pregnancy. The reversing of the order may not be apparent to either new users or previous users of the product, increasing the likelihood of taking the capsules out of order. If patients have concerns regarding the possibility of an unintended pregnancy they should consult their physician.

This product is an oral contraceptive indicated for the prevention of pregnancy in women who elect to use oral contraceptives. The TAYTULLA  pill pack is a 28 count blister card that has 24 "active" pink softgel capsules (with hormones) with "WC" printed on the outer shell in white to be taken for 24 days, followed by 4 maroon softgel capsules (without hormones) also imprinted with "WC" on one side to be taken for the next four days. If you are a patient in the U.S.

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Time lapse of pills dissolving in water

The beauty of pills and capsules releasing their payload. Read the rest

Story behind the birth control pill "calendar" dispenser

In 1961, new parents David and Doris Wagner had a baby and Doris went on the birth control pill, just approved by the FDA the year before. Quickly though, Doris and David realized that it was too easy to forget a day and not realize it, so they invented a calendar dispenser that was the basis for the compact-shaped dial packs still common today. Read the rest

What's in your herbal supplements?

DNA testing of 44 different herbal supplements from 12 companies found that 59 percent of the bottles contained DNA from ingredients that weren't listed on the label — and some of those ingredients are potential allergens, including soybean, wheat, and the herb feverfew. Read the rest

Tracing the pill-trails to America from Russia's e-pharmacy underworld

Security reporter Brian Krebs has a fascinating piece up on Pavel Vrublevsky, founder of Russia's biggest online payment processor, ChronoPay. Krebs reports that this man also co-owns Rx-Promotion, an online pharmacy that sells tens of millions of US dollars worth of controlled pills to Americans each year: Valium, Percocet, Tramadol, Oxycodone, and other substances with high street resale value. Just before Krebs arrived in Russia to meet with Vrublevsky, "several truckloads of masked officers from Russian drug enforcement bureaus" raided a private party thrown for the top moneymakers of Rx-Promotion (that's their promotional banner, above). Snip:

I hadn't told Vrublevsky that I was coming to Russia before I arrived on Feb. 8. But I wasted no time in phoning him via Skype, using the line he normally calls me on several times a week.

"Duuuuuuuudddde!," he answers. "It's 7 a.m. where you are, who died?"

I reply that I am in fact in his time zone and that we should meet. After another long "Duuuuuuuuddde!" Vrublevsky promises to send a car if I will wait in the hotel lobby. He tells me he'll be sending along with the driver his receptionist, named Vera. He proceeds to describe Vera as this grossly overweight, unattractive older lady but, hey, she speaks English and knows how to deal with Westerners, so she's coming, he says.

Fifteen minutes later, I am seated in the lobby waiting for Vera, watching incoming guests as they stomp off snow and trudge through the hotel's revolving door. I find it difficult to avoid staring at this unusually attractive, slender, dark-haired young woman standing nervously just beside the door.

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