"Can't you just take a pill?" is a question most of us have heard again and again whenever we take an injection or show off our insulin pump to family, friends, or strangers. Taking insulin orally has been a wish of PWDs for many years, but the "non-invasive dream" goes about as far as the stomach acid destroying the hormone before it reaches your blood stream.
Injecting insulin subcutaneously has been the only option considered viable — until just a few years ago, when companies began researching oral options in earnest. A few years ago, Pfizer was first to market with an inhalable insulin product, Exubera, which failed miserably. But that hasn't stopped the pursuit of the Oral Insulin Dream. Over the years, we've profiled Mannkind Corp., developing Afresa; Dance Pharmaceuticals, working on "Exubera 3.0"; and PharmFilm, creating a sort of "Listerine strip" for insulin that dissolves in your mouth.
Israeli-based Oramed is another company making strides in bringing oral insulin to fruition, in this case in a capsule form. In May 2010, Oramed completed a Phase 2 study in type 2 adults in South Africa that found that one capsule of oral insulin was able to lower blood sugar.
Amy spoke to one of the chief scientists, Dr. Miriam Kidron, back in 2007, but wasn't able to glean too much info from the tight-lipped company at the time. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Oramed CEO Nadav Kidron, who is Dr. Kidron's son. Luckily, this time around they were much more forthcoming. Nadav showed me an actual insulin pill and explained how it works (albeit in highly technical terms), how it will compare to injections, and what we can expect from Oramed in the near future:
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In addition to oral insulin, Oramed is also working on an oral version of a GLP-1 analog. Byetta and Victoza are the two GLP-1 analog's currently on the market — both injectables. Oramed is also planning to conduct trials on its new oral GLP-1 later this year.
As for the success of oral insulin, we remain a little skeptical. It might work well for folks who don't need precise doses. But for those who do, this oral insulin is currently being used in a basal fashion, along with injections (or a pump) to cover meal boluses — which is a bit of a letdown. Hopefully more refinements will be made before this pill comes to market.