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Buffalo Company Makes Pill that Helps Diagnose Gastrointestinal Problems

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – For anyone who has suffered from gastrointestinal problems, they know in order for doctors to diagnose the problem it usually involves invasive procedures. But thanks to a Buffalo company, a pill is being tested that can examine your GI tract.

The SmartPill is the size and shape a large vitamin capsule. It is swallowed and designed as a diagnostic system to determine gastrointestinal disorders and diseases while offering the patient comfort.

The original concept was designed at UB's Department of Pharmacology in 1994 as a means of delivering drugs into the system. But David Barthel, president and CEO of SmartPill, located at Main and Virginia in Buffalo, says the concept is now being used to examine the GI tract.

"As it passes through the GI tract, it takes constant measurements," Barthel explained. "It sends out an RF (radio frequency) signal to a receiver the patient wears on their belt. What they would do then is go home and go about their normal daily activities while the data are collected."

SmartPill will specifically be used to determine gastroparesis -- the inability for a stomach to empty -- a condition that effects diabetics. It can also be helpful in detecting Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Barthel says his company is seeking FDA approval. It already passed one federal regulatory hurdle. Some initial clinical trials were conducted on more than 30 healthy male patients at the Buffalo VA Hospital and Massachusetts General.

Barthel says it proved the product works. In fact, one patient discovered it takes almost six hours for his stomach to empty. The product will now be tweaked and a new round of larger clinical trials will begin in January.

A finalized application for FDA approval will be submitted next Spring. If approved, the SmartPill could be out on the market by October of 2005.

Barthel says it would allow the local company to tap into a $3 billion market in the gastrointestinal diagnostic business and provide Buffalo with a high-tech business success story.