FDA clears implantable
microchip for sale
Why, Hello, Mr. Chips
By Julia Scheeres
1:35 p.m. April 4, 2002 PST
The Federal Drug Administration has
ruled that an implantable microchip used for ID purposes is not a regulated
device, paving the way for the chip's immediate sale in the United States, the
manufacturer announced today.
For the past several weeks, Applied
Digital Solutions has worked to get its VeriChip — a biochip containing
personal data that is similar to devices used to identify lost pets — classified as a non-regulated device. On Thursday, the company's wish was
"They inquired about the use of
the product for non-medical, identification purposes," said FDA spokeswoman
Sharon Snider. "If it's a non-medical use, the FDA doesn't regulate
Because the VeriChip won't be
subject to the agency's rigorous safety tests, ADS will be able to launch the
product over the next three months, said ADS president Scott Silverman, first in
the company's headquarters of Palm Beach County, Florida, and then nationwide.
In the United States, the VeriChip
has been marketed as a medical aid which would allow hospital workers to access
patients' health records with a simple wave of the wand, or reader. While the
FDA has not approved storing medical information on the chip, the device's ID
could be cross-referenced with a computer database holding the patient's
In South America, the device has
been bundled with a GPS-unit and sold to potential kidnapping victims. (The
company is developing a separate implantable GPS product for kidnapping targets
that should be completed in a year, Silverman said.) The company hasn't decided
yet if it will sell or freely distribute the scanner needed to read the chip's
125-kHz signal to hospitals. The scanner is expected to cost between $1,000 and
ADS has been inundated with
inquiries from teenagers and other technophiles who are impatient to get the
"We'll start the rollout with
people who want it for medical concerns and Generation Y people who want to get
chipped because they think it's cool," Silverman said.
ADS plans to charge $200 for the
chip (insertion would be free at certified clinics) and an annual $40 service
fee for maintaining the users' database. The chip, which is slightly larger than
a grain of rice, is inserted under local anesthesia during a quick outpatient
The VeriChip has fanned the fear
among certain Christians who believe it may be the dreaded "Mark of the
Beast" described in Biblical lore.
Privacy advocates are also concerned
about the chip's involuntary implantation or the possibility of using the
technology to track government dissidents in the future.
Among the first people to receive
the VeriChip will be a Palm Beach County family called the Jacobs. The Jacobs
family — Leslie, Jeffrey, and their son Derek —
are interested in the chip
for a variety of health, security and technolust reasons.
Jeffrey Jacobs, the father, suffers
from multiple degenerative diseases and needs 10 medications a day to control
pain and other problems. He believes the chip could save his life during an
emergency if he were unable to communicate with health workers. His 12-year-old
son fantasizes about the merging of man and machine. And Jacobs' wife, Leslie,
believes the chip could become a tamper-proof way to identify people in an
increasingly insecure world.
"We are so thrilled to be part
of this," Leslie Jacobs said, scoffing at privacy and religious concerns.
"When they find out what this is really about, and that it can save
people's lives, they'll change their minds."
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