Haven't you always wondered why Glucagon Emergency Kits are so effing complicated?  I mean, in the event of an actual emergency, if some PWD is lying unconscious on the floor, tasking a friend or family member to fumble with a delicate vial, gi-normous syringe, and what-looks-easy-but-in-reality is about a 12-step process to get the whole thing going only extends the nightmare for everyone involved!

Enter Enject, the smart folks who are developing a simple-to-use glucagon pen, aptly named the GlucaPen.  I've written about them before, and they were even an entrant in last year's DiabetesMine Design Challenge (although their video did not explain the potential impact of this clever product). The company has had challenges of its own getting the product ready for market. I caught up with Enject's CEO Dick Rylander at the recent ADA Conference and learned some pretty interesting stuff.

First off, there is a much bigger market need for a pen to treat hypoglycemia than for the ubiquitous EpiPen used to treat allergic reactions. Consider this data (click on chart to enlarge):

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{see chart data source here}

In addition, there are only about 9,500 hospital admissions per year due to severe allergic reactions, versus more than 350,000 for hypoglycemia, according to data from Kaiser.

The Challenges

Guess why no one's bothered to put glucagon into a pen delivery system yet (which seems like such an obvious win-win)? Because it is scientifically DIFFICULT; glucagon is not stable in liquid format, meaning it only stays active for a very short time — which is why it needs to be mixed immediately before use.  Figuring out how to accomplish this in a pen form factor has been Enject's biggest challenge.

"We found this company in Germany that is the only place that manufactures these special dual-chamber cartridges we needed to make this product a reality," Rylander tells me. "It took a while to figure out how to add a little depression inside one of the chambers that can be activated when you press the pen, to allow the powder and liquid to mix, only when needed."

The second challenge was making it easy to use.

"It's only a three-step process, but in our early focus groups, people didn't know what to do with the pen," Rylander says. "So we've taken their input and added images of steps 1-2-3 going up the pen, to make it really clear."

I got to try activating a dummy pen, and honestly, it was so easy, I thought I had done something wrong.

The Opportunity

According to Rylander's research, families dealing with severe allergies tend to buy about 2-6 EpiPen units per year. And insurance companies are happy to cover the cost, because there is data illustrating that it avoids the costs of multiple ER visits.

OK, now be honest: when was the last time you bought a new Glucagon Kit? Do you have more than one, like one at home and one at school or the office? Do you take it on vacation with you? (I never have - in part because my husband shudders just looking at that thing).

But if the glucagon were in a nice, simple pen format, and your insurance covered the cost of several new units per year, wouldn't you be happy to keep them around? Much like the folks with allergies always have their EpiPens at the ready...

This is what Enject is betting on. They're also forseeing purchases by schools and ambulances/fire departments/Emergency Services Units. Why not? The GlucaPen could avoid a ton of discomfort and cost for so many people.

As they are working on finalizing product packaging, and pushing the GlucaPen through the FDA, they are of course hoping to gain the attention of one of the big pharma companies or other potential partners. Personally, I'm thinking Dex4, the leaders in glucose products.

Regardless of who markets it, I'm looking forward to surprising my hubby real soon with a new, kinder and gentler way to revive me in case I pass out.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.