Insulin Jet Injectors Evolving

September 12th, 2011

Despite lackluster success to date, the market research firm Kalorama is predicting that the worldwide market for jet injectors will double over the next five years. Jet injectors are a needleless drug delivery system that distribute a fine jet of medication under such high pressure that it is able to penetrate the skin.

"Needle-free devices have come a long way to the present state and are playing an increasingly important role in the novel drug delivery technology markets," Kalorama drug delivery analyst Mary Anne Crandall wrote in a report titled Needle-Free Drug Delivery Markets. She predicts that their ease of use, safety and cost effectiveness, combined with evolving technology, will result in a future boom in jet injector sales.

"Needle free has been a part of insulin marketing for some time," says Crandall, "And now we are also seeing it with vaccines and [other] treatments." There are now over a dozen FDA approved needle-free jet injectors on the market, most designed for specific purposes such as administering vaccines, delivering hormone treatments, and administering growth hormone to children.

Bioject's VitaJet has traditionally been marketed as an insulin jet injector, although it is now being promoted for other home injection applications. There are insulin jet injectors specially designed for children, and even one for dogs and cats, the Zoe Pet Jet.

There are still some limitations to widespread usage of jet injectors. For example, jet injectors can't efficiently administer drugs intramuscularly. They are well suited to delivering subcutaneous insulin doses, but existing jet injectors are cumbersome compared to an insulin syringe or insulin pen, and require maintenance.

Currently, cost is also an issue, although Crandall believes prices will erode in the near future, spurring further sales. While initially expensive, jet injectors are designed to last for years. The pressurized gas cartridges needed to power many jet injectors (others use a spring loaded device) are an ongoing expense.

The number one issue may be discomfort. Although some diabetics find a needleless insulin injection quite tolerable, many find the pressure required to force the insulin through the skin painful. Some report bruising, swelling and even bleeding at the injection site, although that may be the result of an incorrect injector setting.

There are some obvious benefits to a needle free jet injection system, the most apparent being the option for the needle phobic to avoid needles. Other advantages are the speed and ease of use, safety (no bent or broken needles, or "sharps" to dispose of ), less risk of contamination, a better spread of insulin into the subcutaneous tissue, no scar tissue build up at the injection site, and no need to keep buying syringes.

"Needle-free jet injection devices can and should play a major role in solving the problems of needle stick injuries and needle phobia in the United States," according to Crandall. With the industry aware of and working on the drawbacks of the promising drug delivery devices, Crandall is probably right.

Insulin Nasal Spray Tested as an Alzheimer's Treatment

September 16th, 2011

insulin nasal spray

Ateam of Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) researchers were intrigued by studies that suggested that low levels of insulin in the brain could contribute to Alzheimer's disease. The researchers, led by Dr. Suzanne Craft, decided to test the benefits of restoring normal insulin levels in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Insulin is an important hormone which plays a major role in turning blood sugar into energy for cells. A lack of insulin, or an inability to properly use it, results in diabetes. Diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzheimer's, although the connection is not yet clear.

Alzheimer's is a disease in which cognitive functioning declines over time, causing progressive memory loss, loss of motor and language skills, impaired reasoning, emotional instability, and eventually full-blown dementia. The disease is associated with abnormal protein deposits in the brain called plaques.

The VA team used an insulin nasal spray that could deliver insulin rapidly and directly to the brain without increasing insulin levels elsewhere in the body. They recruited 104 adults with mild amnestic cognitive impairment or mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. They divided the participants into three groups, with one group receiving 20 international units (IU) of insulin, one receiving 40 IU, and the third receiving an inactive saline placebo. The insulin dose or placebo was delivered daily through a nasal spray for four months.

Memory, cognition and functioning ability tests were conducted on the participants both before and after the four month period. The patients in the treated groups showed an increase in brain glucose metabolism following insulin therapy. Both insulin doses improved the patients' general cognition and functioning about 20%, and the 20 IU insulin dose also improved memory. The group receiving the placebo showed a slight decline in cognitive abilities. The treatment did not result in any major side effects, although some participants did report a mild headache or a runny nose.

Insulin appears to protect the brain against the toxic effects of beta-amyloid, the protein behind the brain plaques present in Alzheimer's. It also prevents the formation of a toxic form of the protein tau, a biomarker for Alzheimer's found in the cerebrospinal fluid. Insulin also promotes cell repair and growth, which may also help combat degenerative brain disease.

VA Chief Research and Development Officer Dr. Joel Kupersmith says, "VA researchers are exploring a number of possible approaches to help prevent of effectively treat this devastating disease, and these are among the most promising results to date." The research is even more important and encouraging because there is currently no effective treatment to delay or treat Alzheimer's disease.

There are a great many unanswered questions about the connection between insulin and Alzheimer's, and it's still premature to consider insulin a new treatment. Researchers still don't know much of the daily insulin injections required by many diabetics gets into the brain, and what effects it may have in the brain of the average diabetic.

Researchers are calling for further studies to explore the use of insulin to treat Alzheimer's, and to hopefully establish an optimal insulin dosage and dosing schedule. Any treatment which could improve the lives of the estimated 5.4 million Americans that suffer from Alzheimer's and their caregivers can not come soon enough.

$100,000 Reward Offered for Glucose-Sensitive Insulin

October 3rd, 2011

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) announced a $100,000 Challenge for the development of a new glucose-sensitive insulin medication that will be used in the treatment of patients with diabetes. The JDRF is a global organization that promotes awareness of Type 1 diabetes in addition to sponsoring research into new treatments for diabetes and educating diabetics about how to properly manage the disease.

The JDRF is utilizing the InnoCentive.com platform to issue the challenge. InnoCentive is a service that connects businesses and organizations seeking solutions to problems in a wide variety of fields with scientists and research teams who develop solutions custom-tailored for the "challenge."

The best solution is awarded a cash prize, usually between $10,000 and $100,000. The JDRF's challenge will award $100,000 to any research group that develops a diabetes medication that improves blood sugar management, lessens the need for frequent blood sugar testing, and reduces the risk of diabetic complications.

The winning solution will be a glucose-responsive insulin medication that senses glucose levels in the blood of the patient and automatically releases insulin into the bloodstream when necessary. A glucose-sensitive medication would require fewer insulin doses - a single dose a day, or even less - and would reduce the burden of frequent blood sugar testing and insulin injections for diabetics.

According to Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., assistant Vice President of Treatment Therapies at the JDRF, "Insulin treatment requires diligent monitoring and burdensome administration, often several times a day, every day. This remains the only way to regulate blood sugar levels for the millions of individuals with insulin dependent diabetes worldwide. Although research has propelled the development of better and faster-acting insulins, the disease is still hard to control because of the way insulin is administered to patients."

"What we need is sophisticated insulin that will take the guesswork out of managing diabetes by developing a novel insulin that works in the same way insulin works in people without diabetes," continued Dr. Kowalski. "By fostering novel approaches from diverse problem solvers within and outside the diabetes field, we hope this Challenge with InnoCentive will help speed progress toward the development of glucose-responsive insulin - progress urgently needed by people with diabetes."

InnoCentive.com is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company's founders were first inspired to create a service connecting businesses with qualified researchers in 1998, and launched InnoCentive in 2001.