Mar. 30 - Scientists in Israel are developing what they hope will be the world's first insulin pill to replace daily injections for diabetics. If it successfully completes clinical trials, the company believes its tablet will transform the lives of diabetics and radically reduce the cost of providing treatment. Debi Bell-Hosking reports.
If it passes clinical trials, Oramed's insulin pill could revolutionise the treatment of diabetes for patients who now rely on daily injections to survive. The idea of providing insulin in tablet form has been around for some time, but making it a reality has been difficult because of the destructive effect of digestive enzymes on the medication. To make their tablet work Oramed has had to develop a creative solution. The capsule is wrapped in a unique coating that protects it from breaking down during its journey down the gastrointestinal tract. This coating is acid sensitive - it will degrade only when exposed to the lower level of acidity in the small intestine. Protease inhibitors and an absorption enhancer within the capsule continue to protect the insulin as it crosses the intestinal membrane towards the liver. The liver then helps to regulate insulin secretion into the bloodstream, according to Oramed chief scientist, Miriam Kidron, . (SOUNDBITE) (English) MIRIAM KIDRON, CHIEF SCIENTIST AT ORAMED PHARMACEUTICALS, SAYING: "When we give insulin orally, first pass goes through the liver because it goes from the intestine to the liver. Unlike the injection which first passes through the circulation - and this is the main big difference between giving it orally or giving it as an injection." Director of Endoscopy at Hadassah Hospital, Harold Jacob, says the capsule provides a safe and simple alternative to injections for many diabetics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF ENDOSCOPY AT HADASSAH HOSPITAL, HAROLD JACOB, SAYING: "Very easily taken, very easily tolerated thus far clinical trials have shown that it's very safe and we're hopeful that it will also have a very important therapeutic role in the treatment of diabetes." Oramed still needs to complete clinical trials before the drug can be licenced, but Yanic Cohen, a trial participant, is optimistic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) YANIV COHEN, A TYPE 1 DIABETIC, BEING TESTED DURING DRUG TRIAL, SAYING: "I take three or four shots a day, and with this product you just need to swallow a pill and it takes your blood sugar down." For most patients, an insulin pill will not eliminate injections, but could delay by many years, the need for their use...reducing health-care costs and improving the quality of life for diabetics