New Delhi: The use of technology for developing smart drugs and drug delivery systems is growing across the world. An innovation by Indian scientists currently undergoing animal trials in the country is the nano-capsule, which, when ingested, helps in clear imaging of body organs to assist doctors in diagnosing diseases.

“We have developed nano capsule made of carbon that can deliver highly crystalline nanoparticles inside the body for imaging. The capsules have shown superior biocompatibility, dispersion in body fluids, good bio-distribution. The nanoparticles inside the capsule will help doctors in having a clear view of body organs through the MRI machine," Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, department of Science & Technology, said to Mint.

“Carbon capsules have bio-distribution in many organs including liver, heart, spleen, lungs, blood pool, and muscles, which mean these organs can easily be imaged by the MRI machine. Currently dyes are injected inside a patient’s body for MRI imaging. The dyes may get absorbed in some or the other parts of the body and may cause toxicity and side effects. The nano-capsule is a very good substitute to these dyes and will be comfortable for a patient too," he said.

The nano capsule, currently in the animal trial stage, will have to be ingested by a patient like any other pill and will not cause any side effects.

“The capsule is in its animal trial stage and has shown successful results. Very soon, this should be available for use," said Sharma. The nano capsules have been developed by scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras Incubation Cell have developed mobile continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (mCAPD) Dialysis Device. mCAPD is a wearable CAPD dialysis device with a cloud-based patient management system, allowing renal disease patients to undergo CAPD dialysis anytime, anywhere.

With the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2017 approving the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system, scientists in India are working to make similar indigenous technologies available in the country.

A recently approved “smart Pill" called Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor) has an ingestible sensor embedded in the pill that records that the medication was taken. The product is approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia, acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder and for use as an add-on treatment for depression in adults.

The system works by sending a message from the pill’s sensor to a wearable patch. The patch transmits the information to a mobile application so that patients can track the ingestion of the medication on their smart phone. Patients can also permit their caregivers and physician to access the information through a web-based portal.

Indian drug regulator Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has also shown interest in making similar drugs available in India, if developed and put forward for scientific approval. “Till now, we haven’t received any such proposal from any Indian company. But, if in future, we receive a proposal, we would be open for clinical trials. And if the clinical trial is successful on Indian patients and it proves to be beneficial for Indian population, we will allow its sale in India. We also want advanced drugs for our patients," said G N Singh, Drug Controller General of India.

Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat schizophrenia. The ingestible sensor used in Abilify MyCite was first permitted for marketing by the FDA in 2012. The FDA granted the approval of Abilify MyCite to Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd from Japan.

Such digital pills and smart technologies are much needed for Indian patients and can prove to be beneficial in long run said. “Use of a smart drug that has a sensor to track its effect is a good way to ensure ingestion of drug and compliance especially in people who are uncertain to take drugs such as for those suffering from psychiatric disorders. Use of such drugs, I am sure, in future could be extended to those who need to take treatment for prolonged periods; for example patients with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, HIV etc," said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.

The government has also been harnessing the potential of technology in improving healthcare delivery, especially in rural areas. In the past couple of years, the union health ministry has launched more than a dozen mobile apps that range from prevention and control of diseases such as diabetes and dengue to reminding pregnant women of taking iron tablets on time.

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