Last year, I wrote our first drug delivery device report, focusing on devices currently being used and sold in the market, but excitement in drug delivery doesn't stop here. In fact, I'd say that it's just the beginning.
Drug delivery devices, unlike most other medical devices, have to evolve with the innovations in pharmacotherapy. The introduction of biologic drugs represented a huge obstacle for traditional routes of oral delivery because the molecules would not survive the acid in the stomach and therefore could not be absorbed through the digestive tract. So injectors that patients could self-administer became a primary candidate. However, as more and more biologics are developed, their characteristics have evolved and many viscous drugs are left without a delivery device because subcutaneous tissue injections using current syringes and injectors can generally only administer up to 1mL per dose. So now what happens. How about a wearable injector, with a larger cartridge to hold higher volumes of the drug, diluted into a less viscous solution that is injected into the patient over a longer period of time.
Last week, Amgen launched its new Neulasta Delivery Kit, a wearable injector kit for its drug given to patients post-chemotherapy to prevent infections. Instead of requiring patients to visit the hospital the day after chemotherapy for an injection, patients are now given this wearable device that automates delivery and alerts the patient when the injector is active, reducing patient involvement but at the same time improving patient convenience. This marks the entrance of one of the first wearable injectors on the market! With the rapid growth projected for biologic drugs, wearable drug delivery devices injectors in particular are also going to experience a similar boost in development and adoption. In my opinion, wearable injectors are particularly attractive and will garner huge interest from patients because they target their desires for devices to be more discreet and convenient to administer wherever the patient is or whatever they're doing.
So it comes as no surprise that companies are jumping on the bandwagon in improving the way their drugs are administered. While product variety is currently limited, we can definitely expect more product launches in the near future. For example, Capricor Therapeutics recently announced details for its Phase II clinical trial for its heart failure drug, which will involve delivery using Insulet's OminPod. Additionally, Unilife a drug delivery device manufacturer has partnered with both MedImmune and Sanofi to develop, on a custom basis, wearable injectors for a select number of drugs currently in their pharmaceutical pipelines. It is particularly exciting that device manufacturers are entering in long-term relationship agreements starting during the clinical development process. At the end of the day, drug delivery is moving away from being conducted in the healthcare facilities to being administered in the home. As a result, focusing on patient needs and making injections as easy and as painless as possible should be the end goal. Therefore, all parties will need to recognize the importance of customizing devices to ensure device and drug compatibility, something that if not done well, can easily destroy the penetration potential for any combination drug/delivery device.