Remote-controlled birth control may soon be available

A revolutionary form of birth control has been developed and may begin preclinical testing as early as 2015. It is a wireless implant with a 16-year lifespan that will release a daily dose of contraceptive medicine and can be turned off and on using a remote control.

Made by the company MicroCHIPS, based in Lexington, MA, the device is hoped to be available to the public as early as 2018, pending testing and FDA approval. The implant is small, measuring 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, and can be inserted into the abdomen, upper arm, or buttocks. It contains a reservoir that houses the hormones levonorgestrel, already commonly used in birth control pills. An electrical current is used to temporarily melt the membrane of the reservoir, releasing the hormone. The dosage can be adjusted by a doctor remotely and should the woman decide to conceive, she can shut the device off without needing to undergo any outpatient procedures. She can also turn the device back on when needed. Both actions can be completed using a remote control.

The implant can hold 16 years worth of the hormone, which is currently more than three times longer than the longest lasting device currently on the market, the IUD.

The idea for the device came from Bill Gates, who asked, “if it were feasible to create birth control that a woman could turn on and off and use for many years,” using MicroCHIPS technology.

Though the device is currently waiting to enter the testing phase, the same technology has already been testing as a delivery system for teriparatide, an osteoporosis medication, in women aged 65-70. The results of this testing showed that its efficacy was similar to injections of the same medication given to a control group.

There are several more steps to go through before the implant can be released to the market. Testing and FDA approval are necessary, but also encryption development is needed in order to maintain patient privacy as data from the device is transmitted wirelessly.