Why, Hello, Mr. Chips
Julia Scheeres; Apr. 04, 2002
The Food and 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 - 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
granted. "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 it."
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 $3,000. ADS has been
inundated with inquiries from teenagers and other technophiles who are impatient
to get the device.
"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
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
12year-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."