PHARMACY

MIT researchers invent electronic pillbox for tuberculosis patients

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created an electronic pillbox that informs tuberculosis patients to take their antibiotics regularly and could potentially tell which patients do not take their medications, according to published reports.

A memory chip records when the pillbox lid is opened, while a timed buzzer and flashing LEDs remind patients to take their pills. At the end of an antibiotics course, the researchers download the data from the boxes to identify patients who did not comply.

Failure to complete a course of antibiotics leads to multi-drug resistant TB strains, so the World Health Organization supports that health workers watch patients take each dose. With 9 million new cases each year, workers need to spot the patients prone to such lapses so that efforts are focused where most needed.

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GSK, Amira ink deal worth potential $425 million

BY Drew Buono

PHILADELPHIA GlaxoSmithKline and Amira Pharmaceuticals have signed a deal worth as much as $425 million that gives GlaxoSmithKline worldwide rights to develop, make and sell experimental compounds from Amira for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, according to published reports.

One of those compounds, an experimental asthma treatment known as AM103, already has shown promise in early human trials.

Amira could receive as much as $425 million in payments if it meets all of its development and regulatory milestones. It also will receive royalty payments on sales of any of its drugs.

“This is a momentous day in the young life of Amira,” chief executive officer Bob Baltera said in a written statement. “This deal validates the abilities and expertise in Amira to expedite the delivery of novel medicines. We are particularly pleased to have partnered with GSK, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world, and a company that has a strong heritage in the treatment of respiratory diseases.”

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Studies explore intra-nasal mode of combatting Alzheimer’s

BY Drew Buono

ST. PAUL, Minn. Studies have been taken place for decades to find ways to combat Alzheimer’s disease, but recently news has been spreading that the way to fight it is with intranasal treatments, according to published reports.

Several studies are using the nose-to-brain method of delivering drugs that was invented in the late 1980s and patented by William Frey II, director of an Alzheimer’s research center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Last month, researchers in Washington State reported using intranasal insulin to improve memory and attention for patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Most nasal sprays are directed to the lower part of the nose so medication can quickly enter the bloodstream. Drugs to treat neurological conditions don’t work through this route, though, because of the protective blood-brain barrier.

While this blockade of cells and blood vessels protects the brain and spinal chord from harmful organisms, it also keeps out most drugs and has blocked otherwise promising therapies.

Avoiding this barrier is what makes intranasal delivery “a potentially powerful therapeutic tool,” according to the Washington research group. Its study was small, with 24 patients receiving daily insulin or a placebo, but the results, published in the journal Neurology, were persuasive.

Patients taking intranasal insulin were mentally sharper, and their blood sugar levels remained healthy.

The goal now is to see if pharmaceutical manufacturers will take this information and try to develop something for the market and the 5.1 million Americans who suffer from this disease.

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