New research from the University of Cambridge has now made it possible to reduce a person’s daily medication needs down to only two semiannual injections. This twice-per-year drug delivery system would not only be much more convenient for people suffering from conditions like diabetes and HIV/AIDS, but might also increase people’s long-term adherence to their prescribed drug regimens.
Today in the United States, an estimated 18.8 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, with another seven million suspected cases on top of that. People with type two diabetes (formerly known as non-insulin dependent diabetes) generally need to supplement their insulin levels with daily injections. However, as the severity of the condition worsens, this number may increase to three or four injections per day. Similarly, people with type one diabetes (also called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile onset diabetes) often need multiple injections of insulin each day.
People with HIV/AIDS must also follow strict, daily medication regimens to manage their condition. These mediation needs can vary considerably depending on the health of the patient, the progressive phase of the disease, and the financial means available to pay for these drugs. Though there are a number of all-in-one HIV/AIDS treatments that be taken once a day, other drugs, such as kaletra, lexiva, isentress, and selzentry must all be taken multiple times a day. Furthermore, a patient requiring a more rigorous treatment regimen may have to take multiple medications in a given day. To add to the inconvenience, some drugs have very specific directions on how to take them; for example, on an empty stomach or in a reconstituted solution made from sterile water. Such inconveniences can often deter patients from strictly following their treatment plans, particularly if those people live in poor and/or rural conditions. Research from the World Health Organization indicates that in Africa, South American, and Asia, 21 percent of patients receiving HIV/AIDS medications will drop-out of the program within six months of initiation.
Patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and other diseases that require daily medication regimens will no doubt be interested in research that just came out of the University of Cambridge. There, Dr Oren Scherman, Dr Xian Jun Low, and PhD student Eric Appel sought to simplify these complex and time-intensive drug regimens down to a simple, semiannual injection. They did this by engineering a new kind of hydrogel into which proteins and other therapeutic agents can be stored and slowly released into a patient’s body over the course of many months. The gels contain these bioactive compounds in a mesh-work net of cellulose polymers and other molecules. This structure both prevents the drugs from being released into the body all at once and also protects the drugs from pre-maturely denaturing.
The research team is quite excited about their findings, and they have since expanded their work to begin collaboration with the BrainRepair Center in the Department of Clinical Medicine in the hope that they can also apply their innovative ideas to treating brain cancer. The results of the research demonstrating the efficacy of this slow-release drug delivery system was recently published in the journal Biomaterials. The semiannual drug delivery system technology has also been patented by Cambridge University’s commercialization group: Cambridge Enterprise.
By Sarah Takushi