In early October, MIT announced that its researchers, along with those at Massachusetts General Hospital, had created a new type of drug delivery system. This "novel drug capsule" does not sound like something you'd usually want to swallow: Like a spiny blowfish, it has spikes all over it.
But these tiny needles make it possible to deliver drugs that would otherwise break down in the digestive tract (and that are usually delivered by much bigger needles) in pill form. The pills ferry the drug to the lining of the stomach, where the needles painlessly inject the drugs into the patient's system.
Patients, in general, prefer pills. (There are exceptions.) Swallowing a pill—especially if it's sugar-coated—is a much more pleasant experience than getting a shot or downing a dose of foul-tasting liquid, and people have been rolling medicinal ingredients into small, somewhat palatable balls for more than 3,000 years, one pharmacist told the Los Angeles Times. For a while, pharmacists would coat them in silver, or gold. But it wasn't until the late 1800s that pills started to become a staple of modern medicine, and even as medicine became more science and less art, pill-makers fought over whose pills actually worked.