Is the future of the Pill an implantable chip women can control remotely?
The combined oral contraceptive pill—aka the Pill—has served women well for more than 50 years. But it may soon be superseded by something even more convenient: a chip pushed below the skin that secrets hormone on demand
Backed by the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation, the MicroCHIPS chip measures 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters. It contains levonorgestrel in microscopic channels, or arrays, which are covered with a thin seal. By passing a current through the device, the seal is temporarily melted and releases the hormone. It works like this sticky chip from South Korea we wrote about previously.
"These arrays are designed for compatibility with preprogrammed microprocessors, wireless telemetry, or sensor feedback loops to provide active control," MicroCHIPS says. "Individual device reservoirs can be opened on demand or on a predetermined schedule to precisely control drug release or sensor activation."
The chip, which can be turned on and off at will, could be available by 2018, though it has yet to be tested fully on humans. There's likely to be a high bar given the obvious dangers that the chip could somehow leak, or be hacked remotely.
MicroCHIPS says that the chip lasts up to 16 years, will be encrypted and will have a remote control device that won't be very remote (it will need to be right next to the body to work at its best). But it may take some getting used to. Safe or not, women will want to retain control over their bodies and not have the remote control falling into the wrong hands (like, say, their partner's hands).