Insulin in pill form may soon be an option for patients with diabetes with the development of new drug delivery technology by researchers at UC Santa Barbara. Research findings were presented at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists’ annual meeting and exposition. 

Many diagnosed with diabetes require regular insulin shots. However, the discomfort of injections can be a reason for noncompliance resulting in possible “mismanagement of treatment and complications that lead to hospitalization,” stated Samir Mitragotri, professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Oral delivery of insulin would go through a more direct route compared to an insulin injection that has to first go through the peripheral bloodstream. 

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The new insulin pill combines an enteric-coated capsule with insulin-loaded mucoadhesive polymer patches to overcome the proteolytic environment of the stomach and intestine. The pill has showed its ability to withstand gastric acids with the protection of the enteric-coated capsule which opens to release the polymer patches that stick to the intestinal wall, preventing access of proteolytic enzymes to insulin. With the help of a permeation enhancer, the patches deposit insulin that can pass through to the blood. 

Study findings indicate that the drug-loaded mucoadhesive patches may be promising for other forms of therapy as well. “We can deliver many proteins that are currently injected,” Mitragotri said. Other protein-based therapies such as growth hormones, antibodies and vaccines could potentially be put into patch form for painless delivery and improved patient compliance, he added.

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