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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the country's first radio-frequency identification chip that can be implanted in humans.
The 134.2-KHz RFID chips could save lives and possibly limit injuries from errors in medical treatments, according to VeriChip Corp., a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions Inc. The FDA approval was disclosed Tuesday during a conference call with investors.
VeriChip believes so strongly in the chip's viability that it has tested it on one of its own: The company's VP of medical applications, Dr. Richard Seelig. When Selig resigned from his New Jersey medical practice in 2001 to work at VeriChip, he had no idea that one day he'd implant under his skin two RFID chips meant to locate dogs. "It didn't occur to me until the terrorist attack on 9/11," Seelig says. "That's what motivated me to take the project to another level."
The chips could provide easy access to medical information for individuals with life-threatening diseases, and could be particularly useful during a medical crisis, according to the company. "It empowers people to know and manage their health-care issues in an emergency situation at a very critical time," Seelig says. It also could be used to keep track of other implantable devices, such as a pacemaker, a patient might have. The tag could alert doctors of the implants during surgery and relay necessary information about those implants, such as the size and manufacturer. Also, patients could remain better informed in the event of any device recalls.
VeriChip suggests the chip be inserted in the rear part of the triceps of the right arm under the skin. The company plans to market the chip for $125 (not including implantation). The chip doesn't contain any medical records, but its 16-digit number could be linked to a database of patient medical information. When the tag is scanned, the number could be quickly cross-referenced to reveal specific medical data about the patient.
The tags are similar to those being embedded in livestock and pets as a form of identification to track mad-cow disease or tuberculosis. Although VeriChip has yet to sign on customers in the United States, Rafael Macedo de la Concha, Mexico's attorney general, in July said he and 160 of his staffers had received implanted chips from VeriChip that will be used to control access to rooms and documents considered vital in Mexico's struggle with drug cartels.