Researchers in B.C. say they have created Canada's first magnetic drug implant, which could offer an alternative for patients struggling with multiple medications or intravenous injections, and could help people ranging from cancer sufferers to diabetes patients.

In a study published in "Advanced Functional Materials," scientists from the University of British Columbia describe the tiny device as having potential for "safe, long-time, and controlled drug release in local disease treatment."

Researchers say they created the gadget in a bid to provide safer and more efficient drug administration to patients who have illnesses or conditions that require lots of pills or intravenous injections.

The device, which measures six millimetres in diameter, is a silicone sponge with magnetic carbonyl particles wrapped in a round polymer layer.

The drug required by the patient is injected into the device and then surgically implanted into the patient. Passing a magnet over the patient's skin activates the device and triggers the release of the drug into the surrounding tissue.

"This device lets you release the actual dose that the patient needs when they need it, and it’s sufficiently easy to use that patients could administer their own medication one day without having to go to a hospital," said John K. Jackson, a research scientist at UBC's faculty of pharmaceutical sciences and a co-author of the report, in a release.

The group of scientists tested their machine on animal tissue in a lab. It was able to inject the prostate cancer drug docetaxel multiple times and had an effect comparable to that of the freshly administered drug. That, according to the researchers, shows that drugs are effectively stored in the device.

"This could one day be used for administering painkillers, hormones, chemotherapy drugs and other treatments for a wide range of health conditions," said Mu Chiao, a co-author and professor of mechanical engineering at the university.

Researchers say the device could particularly help diabetes patients, who need to have insulin injections at varying times and with varying doses.

The next step will be to refine the device's capability, test the device's ability for long-term use and test it using living subjects.