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Pharmacy On-a-chip Dispenses Drugs Automatically

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the time-for-your-medicine dept.

Medicine 74

An anonymous reader writes "The idea is simple — load up a microchip with a whole pharmacy of drugs that are dispensed as needed automatically. The devil has been in the details, since mistakes could kill the patient if, say, a leak developed dumping dangerous cocktails into the bloodstream. This MIT sponsored company, however, claims to have perfected wireless control of a pharmacy-on-a-chip and has just completed the clinical trials to prove it. The test microchip has just 20 doses of a single drug, but their new prototype will house thousands of pin-prick sized drug reservoirs, after which they will seek FDA approval. The elderly (who have complicated drug regime) and soldiers could both benefit from these smart pharmacies-on-a-chip, since drugs can be dispensed even if the patient is unconscious."

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Perfected wireless control? (5, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071077)

Until somebody hacks it. Then one morning 100,000 elderly people don't wake up.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (-1, Troll)

GamemakerSupreme (2575291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071317)

Why aren't these chips using the latest stable release of Gamemaker? That's what every serious professional uses.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (4, Insightful)

jcoy42 (412359) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071347)

What
Could
Possibly
Go
Wrong.

I ALMOST feel bad posting the obvious, but.. whatever.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071579)

Regarding the future proposal:

Eventually MicroChips plans to develop even smarter models that can administer drugs in response to on-chip sensors, such as a glucose sensor for diabetics.

The obvious problem is overdose/underdose due to malfunction.
Another problem is what happens when you have more than one of these chips and suddenly get an allergic/bad reaction to one of the drugs, and you're not sure which ones. Do you go for surgery to take out all the implants?
Hopefully you can use the wireless method to shut them all off, and the hospital knows where all the implants are and has all the necessary equipment to shut them off without surgery.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071425)

Until somebody hacks it. Then one morning 100,000 elderly people don't wake up.

No, the hack is going to give us Pusher on a Chip.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071573)

Wow ! Hacking humans to get a network of zombie !

Re:Perfected wireless control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071809)

Naw, they're already zombies. This is just the next step downwards.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071997)

Have you seen Higurashi When They Cry [wikipedia.org] ?

Now imagine an entire army camp going insane like that ...

already deadly "hacks" (2)

terracomm (2576689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39073823)

...called doctors and pharmacists. this couldn't be any worse.

Re:Perfected wireless control? (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 2 years ago | (#39073825)

Hence the need to dispense even when the user is unconscious.

Would anyone notice? (1)

1800maxim (702377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39075385)

Or, would anyone miss them?

;)

Re:Perfected wireless control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39078497)

Of course solves the Social secuirty shortfalls that way

I'm terrified. (5, Insightful)

eparker05 (1738842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071085)

From TFA:
"This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens."

I say this jokingly now, but first they will start using it on psychotic people who will not self administer. Then.... who knows.

Re:I'm terrified. (4, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071343)

Of course, the practical limit here is just how much drug can be stored in one. Very few drugs work at even the microgram level. If you take three drugs at 20 mg/day each, that's over a gram in two and a half weeks. A three-month supply will need five grams of drugs - at which point you're talking about a pretty substantial implant.

Re:I'm terrified. (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071377)

And that's also ignoring the fundamental inefficiency of having a great many drugs on each chip, which will never be used. If there's 100 drugs on a chip, and only 10 drugs get dispensed by one chip, then that's wasting 90% of globally available drug reserves.

Re:I'm terrified. (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071435)

So much better for the drug companies. But you don't have to load it up with that many drugs. By filling it to capacity with just the drugs you need, you'd lengthen your time between refills.

But then, filling is the big problem. How do you guarantee that all those little reservoirs have the right drugs in them?

Re:I'm terrified. (2)

Trecares (416205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071793)

That depends on the bioavailability of the drug in question.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioavailability [wikipedia.org]

Most of the drugs you get are mostly filler / carrier mediums. Internally, you can just have the pure drug itself, reducing the required dosage.

What I don't see is a easy way to package multiple drugs on a single implant without custom making each implant which I think is cost prohibitive. Standardized cocktails would be a different story.

I'm surprised they didn't go with some sort of tiny metering system such as with a plunger and miniature stepper motor. That way it could be refillable (syringe) without having to cut the patient open every so often to replace the unit.

Re:I'm terrified. (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072213)

I'm surprised they didn't go with some sort of tiny metering system such as with a plunger and miniature stepper motor. That way it could be refillable (syringe) without having to cut the patient open every so often to replace the unit.

Depends on the likelihood of the various failure modes, surely? The simple system on a chip which they're talking about should be easier to make robust than something with complex pumps and moving parts. (To say nothing of the complexity of working with microfluidics; viscosity is a major problem as you scale down...)

Re:I'm terrified. (4, Informative)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072133)

I know that the 'slippery slope' argument is a Slashdot staple, but really?

Automated drug regimens would be a boon to many people who now for one reason or another forget/skip/whatever. Psychosis, dementia, Alzheimer, ADD, brain damage, the list is long and distinguished.

Having been around a few people who tend to forget their medication, this would be a substantial improvement in their quality of life and that of the people around them.

Re:I'm terrified. (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#39074191)

Great point, but it's a slippery slope. That slope doesn't exist in a vacuum. If you pay any attention at all at what is going on around you, then you necessarily have to be concerned about where this is likely to go. It is all very well to take a positive attitude and say: Hey, this nuclear reaction stuff is great! Think of the possibilities for making a better life for mankind!, but to do so without also remembering Hiroshima is foolish at best.

Re:I'm terrified. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39072661)

While it could be scary, I could also see a good future for this. The first thing that came to my mind was what if they could combine it with a glucometer and use it to dispense insulin. I know there are problems with people excercising and getting too low or people not taking their insulin, so having a system that could start detecting and correcting extremes seems like it could be useful.

Uh oh! (4, Interesting)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071099)

I bet the robot insurance premiums will go up as, as robots would next be ripping old folks limbs off to get at their prescription drugs.

Re:Uh oh! (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071113)

I think whatever meds you are on you need to adjust the dosage. This would be perfect for you :)

(plus one qInformatIve) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071135)

It. Do not sh`are brain. It is the

Culture drug glands (4, Insightful)

Dr_Banzai (111657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071235)

Reminds me of the drug glands in Iain M. Banks' Culture series. Any citizen can dose on one of 300 psychoactive substances just by thinking about it.

Re:Culture drug glands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071297)

How about my protein and mineral gland? It will inject an infusion of protein and zinc into your mouth while you suck on it.

Just don't stay the night or call me the next day. I'm a busy man.

Re:Culture drug glands (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071625)

It reminded me first of Ira Levin's 'This perfect day'. Poor Chip won't get away with fooling the treatment unit anymore to avoid his mandatory dose.

there's always... (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071241)

all your drugs are belong to us!

Interesting. And useful. (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071243)

The issue is that it is not possible to fit huge amounts of drugs inside of these kinds of chips. Of course, there is no need for capsules or such, nor any extra ingredients to make sure that the drug passes into the bloodstream properly as these drugs aren't ingested, they're injected straight into body and as such the drugs do not take as much space as conventional ones. But there is still only a limited amount of space there.

With that in mind, I could definitely see these used in situations where the drugs aren't to be administered often. Like e.g. a diabetic would administer insulin normally as they do now, but that person could have one of these chips implanted for emergency situations where insulin suddenly drops dangerously low.

In the future I could see several implants communicating with one another, like a chip planted near the heart on people with one or another heart condition could send an emergency notice to one of these chips to administer more nitro into the bloodstream. Similarly, I have two friends who are epileptic and they could also possibly benefit from such a monitoring implant if it was implanted near their brains.

Possibly when the chips can draw enough power from the body they could even employ NFC or some other wireless communication method that would send an emergency signal to a nearby monitoring device/mobile phone/etc. and that would place a call for an ambulance.

how to cure diabetes (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071267)

1. spend more money on sidewalks, crosswalks, walking + bicycle paths, and safe intersections

2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

i realize diabetes is often genetic. but often its lifestyle based. and that lifestyle is not the result of 'free choice', its the result of urban planners and social engineers who believe in profit over everything else.

Re:how to cure diabetes (4, Interesting)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071287)

2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

Here in Finland they've already raised prices on sugary products, like e.g. chocolate and other candy. Haven't had any effect though, people are just spending more money now while still eating the same amount of it. Doesn't work.

3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

A lot easier said than done.

Re:how to cure diabetes (2)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39077607)

In the states you can find (high fructose) corn syrup in hundreds of products it normally would never be in.

Learn more at http://endcornsubsidy.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]
Sign a petition at http://wh.gov/K1t [wh.gov]

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071325)

You're talking about type 2 diabetes, which is a problem but almost never quickly results in an immediately life-threatening state. Type 1 diabetes can and does, but it's a much more difficult disease to manage.

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071639)

What's more Type 2 does not normally need insulin and can often be treated by tablets that stimulate the pancreas as well as diet and exercise (less fats and raw sugars mean less problem, exercise assists what insulin the body does make).

Type 1 the body simply stops making insulin and you need to inject it (stomach destroys it so no tablets). There are currently machines that do subcutaneous infusions, and will measure blood sugar levels. There do not seem to be any (in my search) which work like the pancreas and hand out insulin when you eat something.

Bring it on!

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071333)

Also,

3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

is impossible. Doctors can't control what people eat, nor how often they exercise.

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071481)

It is interesting that you think that what people eat, how much they exercise and whether they walk or drive is not dependent on personal choice but on the work of "social engineers". If that really is the case then that is a far bigger problem than diabetes.

Re:how to cure diabetes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071885)

Conspiracy Theories - No longer limited to The Moon Landings and JFK!

That should be on a T-shirt.

Re:how to cure diabetes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39079189)

Social engineering is real and it's not a problem, if you like the status quo. America is the most socially engineered country in the world. If you want to solve any problem, attempting to provoke independent thought will get you almost nowhere. Corporations don't want thinking individuals, that's why you'll see a reference to how reading sucks or books suck on almost any program. Watch for the endless jokes about books and reading and how being a moron is cool now. Corporations want people who make irrational decisions and buy things based on anything but rational thought. If you don't understand that, you'll not go far in the PR industry.

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072001)

Why the parent post isn't moderated into oblivion, I have no idea. It's stupid and offensive.

The cause of diabetes is not eating too much. Get that through your head. Any random person will not automatically become diabetic by eating like a pig. Period.

Then, consider that part of the reason people eat badly is the endocrine system misfiring and causing them to be hungry when they shouldn't be. But that's their fault according to you. Asshole.

You'll have to let me know about some condition you or someone in your family suffers from so I can make a similarly uninformed and offensive post about it.

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

supermank17 (923993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39074481)

I can speak to item number 3.
I have 3 family members that are doctors, and diabetic patients (of the Type-II sort) form their most frustrating class of patients. Patient compliance is terrible when it comes to that disease, as the changes are purely lifestyle and the patients just don't want to give up their sugar or exercise. It absolutely drives my family members nuts, as they talk about how these people are killing themselves, and they just can't convince them to do anything about it. Even worse are people who are potential candidates for lifestyle diseases: They often have the mindset that "it hasn't happened yet, so I must be fine", until diabetes or heart problems inevitably do set in.
Doctor awareness of diabetes prevention is already pretty high, and it's something they pretty aggressively pursue. It's just something they don't have a particularly large amount of control over.

Re:how to cure diabetes (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39078815)

1. spend more money on sidewalks, crosswalks, walking + bicycle paths, and safe intersections

2. spend less money subsidizing the corn, sugar, and 'value added' goods industries based off of those two carbohydrates

3. pay doctors to stop people from getting diabetes in the first place, instead of paying them to diagnose and treat it.

i realize diabetes is often genetic. but often its lifestyle based. and that lifestyle is not the result of 'free choice', its the result of urban planners and social engineers who believe in profit over everything else.

So first of all this only considers type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a completely different beast with similar results in blood sugar. So you still will end up with type 1 diabetics that require insulin to eat any carbohydrates. It also should be known that when you are getting low in blood sugar it is food you need, not insulin. It is cases like this where I wish the two types were actually called different diseases. Ah well, not much one can do about it at this point.

It also should be known that there are already insulin pumps for automatically pumping insulin in for type 1 diabetics (or sometimes Gestational diabetes). Though something that could give glucose or something similar if someone was dropping to dangerously low blood sugar levels could be helpful with something like what is talked about here.

Drugs Delivered by chip? (2)

ajlisows (768780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071273)

The self destructive side of me has finally had his prayers answered! Now to find a hack to cut off the portion control....

herbert said it in the 60's (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071275)

The eyes of Heisenberg are upon us.

Re:herbert said it in the 60's (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39077523)

The eyes of Heisenberg are upon us.

That's uncertain... In principal, it remains to be seen.

Caffiene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071371)

This could have interesting effects given this article.
http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/02/17/004229/optimizing-your-caffeine-intake-with-an-app

Re:Caffiene (1)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071811)

My employer just had a great idea.

Re:Caffiene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39073841)

Unfortunately the benefit of caffeine goes down with exposure... like most stimulants, the more you take, the more you need to take just to feel normal and even more to get a rise which eventually you can't get...

Re:Caffiene (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39079579)

That's why the chip goes cold turkey for two weeks shortly after every deadline.

Major fracture detected (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071433)

Automatic medical system engaged
Morphine administered

THX1138: "Criminal Drug Evasion" . . . ? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071505)

Dope people up with the push of a button. What a marvelous idea! Calm the masses.

Great for school teachers. Is that kid in the third row acting up again? Push a button to Ritalin or Adderall him up.

When your drug dispenser runs low, it will pump you up with a last dose that turns you into a zombie, and instructs you to return home for refilling.

Great idea! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071567)

What could possibly go wrong?

Elders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071619)

[quote]The elderly who have complicated drug regimes[/quote]

Actually it's the ignorance of 99% of the MD doctors who lack insight into nutrition, that has complicated drug regimes for the elderly since most chronic problems are due to bad nutrition.

Pocket integration? (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071641)

Now we just need to integrate apps (like this one: http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/02/17/004229/optimizing-your-caffeine-intake-with-an-app [slashdot.org] ) that run fancy portable gadgets like cell phones, so our computers can automatically give us our drug(s) of choice at specific time intervals, with no need to pop pills, shoot up, smoke a bowl of weed, hit some Salvia, pop open a beer, or crack a can of Coke. A never-ending high that needs no work to keep up the buzz. Just keep your portable device with you and make sure you don't run out of power.

maybe not the best idea, but has promise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39071781)

Speaking as a registered nurse, I can assure you that this gadget was thought up by engineers and not by anyone in the medical field.

Somewhat less sophisticated things already exist and are in use: insulin pumps and pain pumps come immediately to mind.
They don't automatically administer a cocktail of drugs, though: in the case of most insulin pumps, they can give what's called a basal rate (a few units of insulin per hour, for example), and the patient checks their blood sugar at meal times and inputs the number, and the pump administers an additional amount based on a programmed sliding scale. I've even heard of a very sophisticated model that can check the blood sugar automatically and give the appropriate amount of insulin, or give none of the blood sugar is already low. But I've never seen one and don't even know if it's even FDA approved and in use yet.

What really gives me pause about this gadget is that many medications that patients normally take every day require clinical judgment rather than just blindly administering them. For example, if a patient's blood pressure is low you definitely don't want to give their scheduled medications that will drop their blood pressure further.

I can see where it would have its places, though, particularly with psychiatric patients who are notoriously unreliable at taking their medication regularly (which results in a vicious cycle of frequent re-admissions to psychiatric units from emergency rooms after encounters with police).

This thing could be very beneficial for a range of medications that do not require clinical judgment for each adminsitration, just appropriate follow-up by the patient's doctor for monitoring and re-evaluation. Absolute reliability is critical, though: if this thing malfunctions people could die.

Next Step in PATENT ABUSE? (1)

JudasPreist (2530344) | more than 2 years ago | (#39071871)

Seriously though, how many drugs have come out, then 7 years later been re-introduced with an Extended Release, Extra Strength, or a Cooperative form?! I know damn near everything I've ever taken has come out in forms like Extra Strength, or Extended release, or some such sub-variety. This is just another way for drug companies to make the big bucks off of their 33 cent a bottle pharmaceutical concoctions for years to come!

They don't research the next cure for cancer, they research the next bloody extend-your-life-till-you-die-drug. They don't care about human health, they care about human dependency on the drug that THEY MAKE!

THIS is why the United States of America NEEDS a fricken a to z government controlled health coverage. Screw social security, my grandma would LOVE to work a couple of hours each day talking to people and making money. She sits in my living room all day long taking naps, and embroidering stuff, while praying for one of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or great-great-grandchildren to call her! I'm dead serious, one of her great-great-grandchildren just got married.

If one every one of her descendants took a half hour out of every week just to say 'hello' she'd be on cloud nine and busy most of the day. It's somewhat sickening to see her health decline while only the 'regulars' show up or call in for an update.

I'll get off of my soapbox, but think about it gentle-people. Why is there a company out there for automatic delivery of every health-dependency market, yet no single place to go for a true cure. It's not because we can't make it. It's because if the cure comes out, some pharmaceutical squashes it's development and comes out with a suppressant.

Automation (1)

XrayJunkie (2437814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072207)

This way, I can start the week with some happy pills to get through work and end it friday with a high dose of coffein - totally automated! Amazing!

Transmetropolitan (1)

umberleigh (793964) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072283)

I just finished reading Transmetropolitan last night. It's very strange to go to bed reading about this subject in science fiction, then wake up the next morning and find out it's actually been developed.

Re; Viagra (0)

sempir (1916194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072495)

One of those chips loaded with Viagra would go down a treat with me....but...when are those pharma giants going to produce a drug that would make the Missus want what I get when the Viagra starts working???Lets leave romance out of this.......I'm 71 years old and don't have time for that shit every night, now and then is OK but Jezuz not every time!!!

HEV suit (0)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39072511)

*BEEP BEEP* WARNING. Minor laceration detected *pffthiss* Morphine administered

well i know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39072743)

that Obooboo is going to love this! vote dose on demand!

Solves many problems (2)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39073191)

I was once told that even with medication in pill form, roughly 1/3 of prescriptions are never filled and another 1/3 are filled but the patient never takes them.

As the article states, getting a patient to take drugs which require daily (or multiple times per day) injections is very difficult. For obvious reasons people just don't want to stick themselves with needles, elderly patients forget, some drugs need to be given so frequently the patient has to be wakened every couple of hours, etc.

Caffeine (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39073997)

Can I combine it with...
http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/02/17/004229/optimizing-your-caffeine-intake-with-an-app [slashdot.org]

No need to use a cup anymore! Just caffeine straight to the blood stream! :D

Re:Caffeine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39074435)

You just realised this? I've been walking around with an IV drip for years.

David Weber's Imperial Marines - Recon - Cadre.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39074009)

Looking forward to riding the tick...

Medigel continued! (1)

Tyr07 (2300912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39074101)

I keep seeing references to tech in mass effect.

There was a previous article about a gel that help healed bone fractures and other things from weeks into days.
Now if you can automatically administer it, soldiers will where suits like in mass effect and wala, the future :P

Talk about hacking (1)

crakbone (860662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39075075)

Geeks and Rohypnol. Get ready for a whole new generation of ugly smart people.

new black market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39079131)

a whole new industry will pop up of techies who unlock pharma chips for $$$$
would be kinda cool to have a pharmacy at your fingertips though (for your own personal use, not to control others)

yea, lots of people would die at first but overpopulation is already an issue

Antibiotics (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39079565)

As soon as this tech is perfected, it should become illegal to prescribe antibiotics to humans via any other method.

That way, we might have a chance of newer antibiotics still being useful after a while.

CHIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39079901)

Isn't this the plot of Syndicate?

Imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39081025)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Drug regime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39081557)

I really wish people would stop confusing "drug regime" and "drug regimen." A drug regime is what happens in Colombia.

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