November 8, 2011
Engineers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering have developed a pouch that could more effectively deliver antiretroviral therapy to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. Made of foil and plastic, the ketchup packet-sized "Pratt Pouch" could help protect the ARVs from damage due to the loss of water.
Conventional drug delivery methods, such as syringes, often result in water loss that ruins the medication. "When a pharmacist draws a few hundred microliters into a syringe, the drug immediately begins to change, and within a few weeks it will be unusable," said Robert Malkin, a Duke professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Developing World Healthcare Technology laboratory.
"The Pratt Pouch uses the same plastic as the syringe, but it has only a very small volume of that plastic, much less than the volume of an infant dose of drug," Malkin said. "Since the drug-volume to packaging-volume ratio is high, the drug remains a liquid."
The "pill bottle for liquids" costs less than an adhesive bandage and can be filled with any type of HIV drug, making it versatile, Malkin said. "So as the drug protocols change, the pharmacist simply fills the pouch with whatever is prescribed."
In the near future, Malkin and others plan to conduct clinical trials to demonstrate the Pratt Pouch's efficacy. Malkin hopes that the pouch, which has won numerous awards and recognition as well as a grant from the US Agency for International Development, may become widely used to deliver other lifesaving drugs.