WASHINGTON-- A company plans to begin selling a computer ID chip that can be embedded beneath people's skin, now that the Food and Drug Administration has said it will not regulate the implant as long as it contains no medical data.
Applied Digital Solutions Inc. designed the VeriChip -- about the size of a grain of rice -- to hold information that could be read with special electronic scanners. The company has touted the chip as a potential way to hold a person's medical records or security codes.
Applied Digital had held off sales pending discussions with the FDA of whether an implanted chip would be considered a medical device. If the chip solely provides identification, it needs no FDA clearance, the agency confirmed today -- advice officials have long given others developing ID for tracking children, prisoners or workers with top-security clearances.
But, "if they put medical records in, we would be concerned about the use," said the FDA's medical device chief, Dr. David Feigal, who made clear that the agency could step in at that point.
If someone is unconscious in an emergency room and implanted medical records are outdated, that could be more dangerous than if doctors had no information, he said. Feigal urged companies considering such health-related implants to consult with the FDA.
For now, the VeriChip will bear only an identification number, said David Hughes of Technology Sourcing International, a consulting firm helping Applied Digital in its discussions with the FDA. But that ID code could be cross-referenced with a database to detail any kind of information.
The company said production would begin immediately.
VeriChip emits a radio signal and has been derided by some for its "Big Brother" implications. Applied Digital has said it could prove invaluable in emergency situations when someone is either unconscious or cannot otherwise give information.
VeriChip is expected to sell for about $200. A scanner used to read information contained in the chip would cost between $1,000 and $3,000. A doctor would insert the chip with a large needle-like device.
Shares of Applied Digital rose 4 cents, or 8 percent, to 52 cents in late trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market