October 30, 2006

VeriChip Sticks It To Diabetics With Glucose-Sensing Chip

Digital Angel Corp, sister company of VeriChip - makers of the controversial implantable RFID chip - have come up with more implantable technology. This chip is glucose-sensing, and thus is designed for diabetics. Digital Angel also scored a patent for the chip, which is injectable by syringe.

After the chip is implanted, no typical painful finger pricks are needed to read body glucose level. The implanted chip transmits the information to a scanner. The chips are passive, so no battery is required.

According to the press release, there are 230 million people worldwide with diabetes - a huge market for Digital Angel and VeriChip Corp. It's becoming an epidemic in humans and apparently is also a major disease for livestock.

The armchair scientist in me thinks, "Wow, this is an incredible leap in diabetes management." But the VeriChip skeptic/ cynic in me thinks, "Wow, they figured out a way to 'legitimately' convince more people to implant themselves." My maternal grandfather, when he was alive, was a simple village physician who sometimes got paid in chickens and eggs. He was a humble, honest man. And he was borderline diabetic, as I am too. Yet he never once took any medication for it. He controlled his diet very strictly and managed to keep his diabetes fully in check. I struggle with mine, because I am not as disciplined as he was, but have little trust in allopathic ("Western") medicine, despite my grandfather being a doctor.

I also happen to know more diabetics these days than I've known previously in my entire life. The majority of them have to take daily needles; some take pills, and others, still, have lost limbs or even died in comas. It's a terrible, painful disease that has lots unfortunate side effects, including, sometimes, a weird sense of denial of the situation. Not all diabetics are disciplined enough to take their medication. In fact, up to 50% of patients for any illness do not take their medication as directed.

That said, I'd hate to knock anything that might help diabetics, but as per usual, I am reluctant to willingly accept RFID that is implanted in our bodies, no matter what the purpose. But that's just me. (I'm not a full-blown Luddite; just a hybrid.) There is, however, an NFC (Nearly Field Communications) RFID-based solution for diabetics by NXP (formerly Philips Semiconductors) that does not require a chip to be implanted. Though it does require inserting a small tube into the belly area, and finger-pricking for blood droplets is still part of the daily regimen. Both products are prototoypes and, as I understand it, still require US FDA approval. So it may be a few years to reach the market.

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