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What if an implantable device could tell you what medicines you need?

Tonight on the PBS NewsHour, we profiled the Seattle based global health nonprofit PATH for our ongoing series on innovations and inventions called “Breakthroughs.” PATH has been working for more than 30 years to develop innovative tools, medicines and diagnostic devices to improve the health of people in the world’s poorest countries. One of PATH’s most successful products, the Vaccine Vial Monitor, is a heat sensing sticker that tells health workers if a vaccine vial has gotten too hot and shouldn’t be used. It has been used on 5 billion vials over the past two decades. And the organization is currently working on a small chlorination device that may soon be used on the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak.

During our interview with PATH President and CEO Steve Davis, we asked him if there was something new he could invent, what would it be? This was his answer:

I’m Steve Davis, I’m the president and CEO of PATH, and we’re a leading global health innovation organization around the world.

One idea I think would be just completely breakthrough, from a health and global health perspective, if we could come up with some device that could be implanted somehow in a body, and it could then trigger what kinds of medicines you needed, and keep you on those drugs.

So we know that whether it’s, you know malaria drugs, or HIV, you know, diabetes, or insulin, we have, one of the biggest challenges is we know how to treat, but it’s very hard, you know, the compliance, the interactions, and if you could create a really cool device that people would allow to be implanted, and then regulate and keep you on those drugs, it could be really breakthrough.

This would be applicable in every setting possible, because, so, you think about the most acute situation, so a person that’s on some sort of antipsychotic, where keeping on drugs is absolutely essential, or places like diabetes treatment, where it’s about this regular testing, and, so that would be applicable around the world, but those are probably not things that a lot of low, low resource settings have, but in the low resource settings we know that we have to keep people, around ensuring treatment for HIV is on time, and sometimes it needs to be adjusted, or anti-malarials, and all sorts of diseases. So this could have wide impact, if we could come up with this idea.

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