A small, vibrating pill designed to help people with chronic constipation cleared a clinical study and is headed to the FDA for final review.
Vibrant Gastro is putting forward its approach as a drug-free alternative for infrequent or difficult bowel movements.
Swallowed along with a glass of water, the disposable pill—about the size of an everyday multivitamin—aims to do more than simply shake up any possible blockages. The device is also designed to help reset the connection between the gut and the brain’s circadian rhythm. Instead of releasing medication after it’s swallowed, it vibrates to stimulate the colon.
As it travels through the digestive system, its vibrations help stimulate the colon’s involuntary contractions, with the ultimate goal of resyncing them with the body’s biological clock to improve regular bowel movements after one to eight weeks of use. The pill’s progress can also be tracked via a companion smartphone app.
“There are little vibrations for three seconds on, three seconds off,” said Cathy Collis, chief commercial officer for Vibrant Gastro, which is based in Israel but has offices in the U.S.
Before use, each pill is activated in a little pod that turns it on. After it’s swallowed, it is active for about two hours, goes quiet for around six hours, and then activates again for another two hours.
Finally, after they’ve done their job, the person’s body poops them out, and they’re flushed away.
“The pills stimulate specialized nerve cells in the gut called mechanosensory cells,” Ben Feldman, chief marketing officer at Vibrant Gastro, told Health.com. “These help trigger peristalsis, the undulating muscle contractions that help squeeze food through the gut. The pre-programmed timing of the mechanical stimulation is thought to improve colonic motility by leveraging the body’s biological clock.”
Doctors consider a person to be constipated when they’re having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. Between 10% to 20% of Americans live with persistent constipation that doesn’t have a discernible cause, according to a recent survey. They tend to have hard, dry stools that may cause pain and bloating.
The current out-of-pocket cost is $89 a month, according to Ben Feldman, the chief marketing officer for Vibrant. For patients who have commercial insurance, the company offers an additional discount that would bring the price to $69 per month. The company is working with both Medicare and commercial insurers to seek coverage.
Vibrant capsules must be prescribed by a physician. If the doctor advises taking Vibrant, the product is shipped directly to the patient.