John R. White chairs WSU-Spokane’s Department of Pharmacotherapy.

I recently heard that a birth-control microchip was being developed. Is this true and if so, how would it work?

Yes, it's true. A company called MicroCHIPS — with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — is developing such a device. The chip, implanted under the skin, would be a wireless drug delivery device that would deliver levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone used in contraceptives. The chip would deliver a daily dose every day for as long as 16 years.

Currently, contraceptive implants (progestin) last three years and must be surgically removed to stop their activity prior to that. This system would come with a remote control that could be turned off and on simply by pressing a button. This would allow women to discontinue their birth control with the push of a button.

There are potential security problems associated with this kind of system, and MicroCHIPS is working to make sure that the system is secure and protected from hackers. It is hoped that this microchip birth-control technology will be available in the United States by 2018. ♦

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