Definition & Overview

A non-biodegradable drug delivery implant is one of the many drug delivery systems used to efficiently administer medications. They are especially helpful for patients who require long-term medications. The development of these implants is considered a major step in drug delivery, especially for the treatment of chronic diseases. They offer several unique advantages that improve the efficacy of drug therapy as compared with other drug delivery methods. Their insertion and removal are performed through a simple routine procedure involving a skin incision.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

The insertion or removal of a non-biodegradable drug delivery implant is for those who suffer from chronic diseases and require the continuous and consistent use of certain medications. An example is the use of insulin delivery implants among patients suffering from diabetes. Other examples include:

  • Histrelin implants for prostate cancer and uterine fibroids
  • Levonorgestrel and etonogestrel implants as contraceptives
  • Buprenorphine implants for opioid addiction
  • Corticosteroid implants for retinal vein occlusions


Subcutaneous implants are also available for those who are suffering from:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Breast cancer
  • Photosensitivity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Macular oedema
  • Chronic pain


Drug delivery through implantable devices offers several key advantages over conventional drug delivery methods, which include oral, parenteral, and intravenous administration. These benefits include:

  • Specific or precise drug administration in the affected area – The drugs are delivered exactly or near the precise area where they are needed. This is particularly helpful in the fields of cardiology and oncology (cancer treatment).
  • Reduced doses of the drug – Since the drugs are delivered directly into the affected area, they can be taken in exact or smaller doses than what is required for oral administration.
  • Minimal side effects – Since doses can be lowered, patients also suffer from fewer or less pronounced side effects.
  • Sustained release – The medications are released at controlled doses over a specific period of time to make sure the body gets the right doses exactly when they are necessary.
  • Patient compliance – With the drug already implanted inside the body, this method eliminates problems with patient compliance, such as missed pills, incorrect doses, or erratic drug delivery schedules. This is crucial as patient compliance is considered as one of the greatest challenges in healthcare. Studies show that about 50% of all conventional medications are not used as prescribed.
  • Reduced follow-up visits – The use of drug delivery implants simplifies the treatment regimen and thus reduces the need for doctor visits.


All in all, having non-biodegradable drug delivery implants inserted is a convenient way to ensure that a patient takes his medications properly. It also helps eliminate the usual challenges patients face in taking medications, such as maintenance drugs, for their chronic health problems.

Non-biodegradable drug delivery implants have to be removed once the medication period has been completed because they are not designed to be absorbed by the body. They are made of biocompatible yet non-absorbable materials such as silicone rubber, EVA, and TPU, among others. The implants start working immediately upon insertion and can continue releasing controlled doses for years, but their effects are also immediately reversed upon implant removal.

How is the Procedure Performed?

The insertion and removal of non-biodegradable drug delivery implants require a simple routine procedure involving a skin incision. After the administration of local anaesthesia to keep the patient comfortable as a skin incision is made, the doctor inserts the implant through the incision before closing the wound. To remove the implant, the doctor again makes an incision, locates the implant, and takes it out before closing the wound.

Since anaesthesia is used for both procedures, patients are closely monitored for potential complications.

Possible Risks and Complications

Despite the convenience and efficiency of using non-biodegradable drug delivery implants, there are several key considerations that have to be made during the insertion and removal procedures. These include:

  • Biocompatibility
  • Stability
  • Durability
  • Control over the release of the active pharmaceutical ingredient in the drug


Patients and doctors also have to discuss the potential risks of the insertion and removal process. These include allergic reaction to anaesthesia, infection, bleeding, and scarring.

References:

  • Matheson R. “Major step for implantable drug delivery device.” MIT News Office. June 29, 2015. http://news.mit.edu/2015/implantable-drug-delivery-microchip-device-0629

  • Arps J. “Implantable drug delivery devices – An overview.” ProMed Pharma LLC. 2013. https://www.mdtmag.com/article/2013/07/implantable-drug-delivery-devices—-overview

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