Diabetics Cheer As World’s First Insulin Pill Inches Closer

ORMP: Oramed Pharmaceuticals logo
Oramed Pharmaceuticals

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Diabetics Cheer As World’s First Insulin Pill Inches Closer

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Diabetics Cheer As World’s First Insulin Pill Inches Closer

When is $117 billion not enough?

When it’s Pfizer’s (PFE) money and it’s looking to gobble up one of Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical companies.

As you may know, Pfizer recently failed in an attempt to buy AstraZeneca (AZN) in what would have created the world’s biggest pharma company.

But AstraZeneca’s board rejected the bid, saying it undervalued the firm and it would fare better on its own. The proposal kicked up a fuss in Britain, too. Mindful of U.S. food producer Kraft’s (KRFT) controversial buyout of beloved U.K. chocolate maker, Cadbury, a few years ago, the public outcry followed a similar “get your hands off our company” theme.

Even the U.K. government threatened to get involved, amid fears that Pfizer merely wanted to take advantage of more favorable tax laws (a 20% corporate tax rate there, versus 40% in the United States) and would cut thousands of British jobs.

Aside from the controversy, though, the proposed buyout proved something else  . . .

The term “Big Pharma” has never applied more perfectly to Pfizer. The healthcare behemoth has deep pockets, boasting $34 billion in cash.

Cash that it’s clearly willing to put to work on the right deal.

Like this one, perhaps?

No More Stabbing . . .  Just Pop a Pill

It’s certainly not as high profile, but as we noted back in July last year, Pfizer could do worse than add Oramed Pharmaceuticals (ORMP) to its stable.

The Israeli company is working on a breakthrough treatment for diabetes that could transform the lives of sufferers around the world.

As you know, the conventional way for diabetics to treat their condition is by stabbing themselves with an insulin injection every day. Not exactly fun.

But Oramed is developing what it hopes will be the world’s first insulin pill – a far simpler and more pleasant way for sufferers to get their shot of insulin.

It’s not easy, though . . .

You see, while the idea of ingestible diabetes medicine has been around for some time, it’s proved to be problematic, because digestive enzymes and acids tend to destroy the medication.

So Oramed has had to beef up the pill’s defenses . . .

Insulin’s Best Bodyguard

The company has essentially built an anti-acid shield around each pill, which protects it from breaking down as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract.

The genius is that this coating only starts to break down once it’s exposed to lower levels of acidity within the small intestine.

As the pill journeys towards the liver, the insulin continues to be protected. When it reaches the liver, the organ and the pill’s absorption enhancer regulate the deployment of the insulin into the bloodstream.

As Oramed’s Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer, Dr. Miriam Kidron, explains, this marks a big difference in treatment: “When we give insulin orally, [the] first pass goes through the liver because it goes from the intestine to the liver. Unlike the injection, which first passes through the [body’s] circulation.”

An Oral Attack Against Obesity

At Jerusalem’s Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Director of Endoscopy, Dr. Harold Jacob, gives Oramed’s insulin pill a ringing endorsement: “Very easily taken, very easily tolerated thus far. Clinical trials have shown that it’s very safe, and we’re hopeful that it will have a very important therapeutic role in the treatment of diabetes.”

Obviously, though, the proof of concept rests with how the pill impacts diabetics themselves. And one Type I diabetes patient on Oramed’s clinical trial is happy with the difference that the pill is making in his life: “I take three or four shots a day, [but] with this product, you just need to swallow a pill, and it takes your blood sugar down.”

As Dr. Jacob notes, clinical trials have so far shown great promise. But Oramed still needs to complete the process successfully before its insulin pill can be approved.

When it is, it promises to transform the quality of life for diabetics. And while perhaps not eliminating the need for daily insulin injections entirely, an oral pill could delay this unpleasant routine for years.

Moreover, with one in three Americans now classed as “obese,” according to the American Medical Association – and diabetes being one of the leading consequences of obesity – an oral pill could cut healthcare costs in the process.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

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