If you do not like getting an injection then there is good news. Researchers have developed a capsule coated with micro needles, called the microneedle pill, which can deliver drugs into the stomach lining after being swallowed.
Many people, children as well as adults, prefer oral drugs to injections. However, many drugs that are made with large proteins have to be delivered with injections as pills are usually broken down in a patient's stomach before being absorbed.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have created the microneedle pill, which has small needles that injects drugs directly in the stomach lining of the patient once swallowed. The research team revealed that the needle coated drug capsule was able to deliver insulin in animals more efficiently when compared to injections. The scientists also suggest that the latest capsule did not have any major side effects as it traveled via an animal's digestive system and they did not notice any tissue damage.
"The kinetics are much better, and much faster-onset, than those seen with traditional under-the-skin administration," says Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at MGH, a research fellow at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the lead authors of the study. "For molecules that are particularly difficult to absorb, this would be a way of actually administering them at much higher efficiency."
Previous surveys have indicated that many people prefer oral pills to needles. However, it may not be the same if a drug capsule is coated with a number of small needles. The study authors suggest that the microneedle pill may not be as terrible as it sounds and it may feel similar to regular pills when swallowed.
The scientists explain that the capsule will include a reservoir of drugs and tiny hollow needles covered with pH-Responsive coating, which will allow easy ingestion. Once the pill reaches the intestines the pH-responsive coating dissolves and exposes the needles that start injecting the drug. As there are no pain sensors in the gastrointestinal tract, patients will not feel any pain after swallowing the microneedle pill.
The researchers of the microneedle pill suggest that the latest drug capsule can also be helpful to administer vaccines that require needles.
Their prototype of the microneedle pill is 1 cm in diameter and 2 cm long. The pill also includes around 5 mm long stainless steel hollow needles. The researchers are also working to develop capsules, which have needles made from degradable polymers and sugar that will break down and embed itself in the patient's gut lining. An alternative to stainless steel needles will help the researchers to minimize safety concern.
The study has been published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Check out a short video clip of the microneedle pill.