An insulin pill is being developed to help better manage blood sugar for those with diabetes. The drug technology may also be beneficial in other illness treatments as well. The research comes from UC Santa Barbara.
Dr. Samir Mitragotri, specialist in targeted drug delivery, said, “With diabetes, there’s a tremendous need for oral delivery. People take insulin several times a day and delivery by needles is a big challenge.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 29 million Americans have undiagnosed or diagnosed diabetes. Many of these individuals would require insulin shots as a form of treatment. There are many issues in regards to insulin shots, such as discomfort or a fear of needles, so offering insulin in pill form may boost compliance to daily treatment.
Dr. Mitragotri explained, “When you deliver insulin by injection, it goes first through the peripheral bloodstream and then to blood circulation in the liver.”
There are many pill options that help with insulin, but so far there aren’t any that actually provide insulin as a means of controlling blood sugar. The biggest difficulty with the insulin pill is getting the pill past the proteolytic environment of the stomach and intestine without destroying the protein itself. It requires a combination of enteric-coated capsules and insulin-loaded mucoadhesive polymer patches, which the researchers were able to optimize. The new pill was shown to survive stomach acids with the protection of the coating and still deliver its contents into the small intestine.
Dr. Mitragotri added, “This is the first essential step in showing that these patches can deliver insulin. We can deliver many proteins that are currently injected.”