iPod, iPhone, iPill?

Philips electronics is touting its latest invention: a programmable drug capsule the size of a multivitamin that can target its site of action in the body.

The battery-powered gizmo has a microprocessor in it and can release the proper dose of a given drug at the intended place, preventing exposure to the medicine at other parts of the body, the company claims. The iPill will take in and transmit (via a wireless transmitter) information about temperature and pH as it travels through the gastrointestinal tract. When the parameters are just right, a microprocessor turns on a tiny drug pump, which releases the drug.

Another company in Israel had already developed a pill with a camera, which physicians can use to look around the gastrointestinal tract. The new pill is the same size, but Philips might be able to make it even smaller in the future. 

What isn't so small? The cost. The pills will likely cost around $1,000 a pop.

Philips is a Dutch company that makes cordless phones and Web cams. The company is currently in talks with drug companies about its prototype, which it is touting for use in the treatment of colon cancer and bowel inflammation.

- read the story in the San Francisco Chronicle