Drug company sees promise in trials of first oral insulin pill

diabetes illus250x03 Drug company sees promise in trials of first oral insulin pillAn Israeli drugmaker is doing something no company has ever done before – developing an insulin that can be taken by mouth. Clinical trials using the drug in type 2 diabetic patients are currently underway and early results are promising.

Insulin therapy is important for regulating blood sugar levels in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. Those who require insulin take it by injection –usually from a shot or pump that injects the insulin into the fat under the skin so it can get into the blood. Insulin has not been previously been available in an oral pill because it tends to break down during digestion just like protein in food.

Scientists and drug companies have worked for decades to find the technology that would result in a less-invasive oral insulin, but to no avail. Jerusalem-based drug company Oramed appears to have found the secret.

In a one-week study of 30 patients, the company’s oral insulin met safety goals. A mid-stage trial is planned for later this year. An early-stage study on type 1 diabetics also showed positive results.

It will take years for the drug company to gain approval of the drug provided clinical trials continue to show good results. In the interim, Oramed is using the media attention to raise money.

An estimated 371 million people worldwide have diabetes. The most common form of the chronic disease is type 2, which carries additional risks such as heart disease, kidney disease, dementia and circulation problems. Type 2 diabetics often require additional medication to control their blood sugar levels, but those drugs can carry cancer risks. Studies have linked Actos to an increased risk of bladder cancer, and the drugs Byetta and Januvia have been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Source: Bloomberg