Monday, September 10, 2007

VeriChips Linkage to Cancer?

Today's Healthcare IT Strategist carried this summary of an Associated Press story, which was presented, in more complete form, in yesterday's New York Times, MSNBC News, and The Lakeland Ledger.

"FDA-approved microchips linked to cancer: study

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients' medical records almost instantly. The FDA found "reasonable assurance" the device was safe, and a subagency even called it one of 2005's top "innovative technologies."

But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some laboratory mice and rats. "The transponders were the cause of the tumors," said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining the findings of a 1996 study he led.

Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for the Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans, said the findings troubled them. Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people."

The Lakeland Ledger conducted a post article survey (n=109 respondents) which responded to the question "Would you allow yourself or a relative to be implanted with a microchip that gives medics access to a patient's medical records?" 64% of the respondents said no, and 36% said yes. People who answered negatively did so for religious reasons, for privacy concerns, or because they had medical reservations about the implant. Positive voices saw value in the implant in an emergency situation, and for use in identifying patients with a chronic disease.
The MSNBC News survey (n=3963 respondents) asked "Will you get microchipped now that it has been revealed that studies are linking tumors in lab animals to the implants?" 7% said yes, 83% said no, and 10% were uncertain.
I'm buying the MSNBC results because of the larger numbers, and because the results seem more aligned with my sense of the US population's "unease" with microchip implants for humans. (Note: Tens of thousands of pets have microchip implants, without adverse medical impact, at least to date.) Privacy, religious concerns, and medical reservations are pretty powerful barriers to customer acceptance. There doesn't appear to be much evidence that these chips will be much more than a niche product, on a going forward basis. Today, VeriChip's (CHIP) stock fell by 11% , and its' lead investor, Applied Digital Solutions (ADSX) stock, fell by 10%.

No comments: