Diabetes patients, one matchstick-sized implant may soon change your life forever, and its name is Intarcia. Following incredibly promising clinical trial results that pitted Boston based startup’s Intarcia Therapeutics against Merck’s Januvia, the current leading medication on the market for those with Type 2 diabetes, the new kid on the block is proving its mettle. According to its latest press release, Intarcia actually outperformed Januvia when tested in 535 patients, with nearly double the success in terms of glucose reduction and triple the weight loss results. And most interesting of all, unlike Januvia, which is taken orally on a daily basis, Intarcia’s high-tech approach actually employs an osmotic pump that constantly delivers small amounts of a drug over the course of the year, meaning patients don’t have to worry about forgetting to take their pills.
Currently, Merck’s Januvia maintains a firm hold on market share of the Type 2 diabetes medication landscape, reporting some $6 billion in global sales in 2014. But now, with the proven effectiveness of Intarcia, along with the more convenient method of consumption, Merck may be forced to loosen its grip. To implant the matchstick sized device takes approximately one minute in an out-patient procedure, and because it consistently sends predetermined quantities of medication throughout the body, it helps maintain a sense of equilibrium for the patient, which is key for diabetics.
Today, around 29 million Americans suffer from diabetes, with hundreds of millions more worldwide. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the patients in the U.S. manage to control their blood sugar, largely because they forget to take their medication, or do so sporadically. Anne Peters, a professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s unbelievable how hard it is to make people stay on a chronic medication, especially when they don’t feel sick.” This makes Intarcia a particularly attractive choice.
Of course, Merck remains self-assured that its own drug will not be bested by the newcomer. Said a spokeswoman for the pharmaceutical giant, “We are confident that physicians will continue to choose Januvia, the world’s leading branded oral diabetes medicine, to help a broad range of patients with Type 2 diabetes.” But if Intarcia turns out to be as effective as it claims to be, then it may be giving Januvia a serious run for its money.