Novo walks away from microneedle

Novo walks away from microneedle

According to various news reports Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) has terminated a collaboration deal with Zosano Pharma, walking away from an agreement that would have paired semaglutide, a once-weekly GLP-1, with the Zosano’s microneedle patch technology.

Readers may recall that last week we wrote about a “smart” insulin patch being developed by a University of North Carolina team which also uses microneedle technology. And as luck would have it just yesterday Diabetic Investor received some information from Transdermal Specialties which is developing an insulin patch using – wait for it – microneedle technology.

Now we hate to rain on anyone’s parade but one of the biggest myths perpetuated with these newcomers to insulin delivery is that insulin using patients will do anything to avoid so-called painful injections. This is the same myth perpetuated by companies like Valeritas and their “dumb” insulin patches. Better that a patient only injects once every three days than several times each day.

As we have stated before insulin injections may not be a pleasant experience but they are not the painful event that these companies claim they are. First needle technology has come a long way over the years with syringe and insulin pen needles getting shorter, thinner and lubricated. Second, insulin injections are not intermuscular injections rather insulin is typically injected in fatty areas of the body, the abdomen or upper leg areas. Third unlike these whiz bang way cool technologies old fashioned insulin injections give the patient greater control over how much insulin to take and when to take it.

It’s this third point which is the most misunderstood. While it’s true that insulin using patients tend to be better educated on diabetes management than non-insulin using patients, this does not mean 100% of them are proactive with their diabetes management. As we have noted before insulin pump patients given the nature of insulin pump therapy are the most proactive, followed by patients on multiple daily injection (MDI) therapy and then insulin plus oral therapy.

The fact is a vast majority of patients following MDI therapy, patients who are the target market for all  these way cool whiz bang devices, prefer injections for several reasons. First, many just don’t want to be hooked up to any device no matter how way cool it is. Second, there are an ample amount of tools that help these patients calculate how much insulin they should take and when to take it. Third, and this cannot be understated patients following MDI therapy have control over when and how much insulin they take. Fourth payors favor injections over whiz bang way cool devices making injections cheaper for the patient.

The reality is if insulin injections were truly as painful as everyone seems to think they are drugs like Afrezza would be doing much better than they are. Yet what gets lost by all these alternate insulin delivery companies is their way cool whiz bang insulin delivery systems aren’t easier to use than old-fashioned injections. That the devices themselves require more work, a higher learning curve then old-fashioned injections. For the vast majority of insulin using patients injections are simple and doesn’t require a high level of education.

This does not mean there isn’t a place for alternate insulin delivery systems. Yet until these systems become easy to use and don’t require an added layer of patient education they will not achieve a larger share of the insulin delivery market. The fact is what these patients want more than anything else is insulin therapy made easy and as it stands today injections are still the simplest, easiest and cheapest insulin delivery system available.