American pharmaceutical company Intarcia Therapeutics announced that its newly-developed medical implant for diabetes treatment was able to reduce weight and lower blood glucose levels better compared to a well-known product manufactured by its chief competitor Merck & Co.

In a year-long clinical trial, Intarcia's matchstick-sized implant was tested against Merck's Januvia, one of the top diabetes drugs on the market that brought the company around $4 billion in revenue last year.

Intarcia said that its diabetes pump, dubbed ITCA 650, outperformed Januvia in lowering glucose levels in diabetics as well as facilitating weight loss. The pump helped reduce glucose by close to twice as much as Merck's product, and increased the loss of weight by more than three times as much as that of its competitor.

"This now is the ultimate evidence that there could be a totally new way to treat diabetes," Intarcia CEO Kurt Graves said.

 "We took the risk and the bet and studied our drug against the most common oral drug on the market."

Merck responded to Intarcia's assertion, stating that the company remains confident that medical professionals will continue to choose its product Januvia.

The matchstick-sized ITCA 650 pump operates by continuously releasing its diabetes medication into the body of the patient.

Graves said that implanting the diabetes pump and replacing it is a relatively simple process. It is placed under the skin of the patient but it is not visible.

The Intarcia chief executive added that the "game-changing" aspect of the company's diabetes pump is that it can be left for up to a full year, unlike many other treatments of diabetes that require injections and pills every day or every day. He said that many diabetes patients prefer not to regularly or consistently taker their medications.

"The challenge, because it's a chronic disease, is how do you keep people on their treatment" Graves said.

Diabetes researcher Joel Habener of the Massachusetts General Hospital explained that patients diagnosed with diabetes occasionally forget to take their medications regularly.

Patients who tend to forget to take their pill would benefit from having a pump like Intarcia's ITCA 650 as it would remove this predicament.

Habener added that this would prevent having to go through the inconvenience of inject medication every day.

Intarcia is set to file for an approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year, following the final phase of its clinical trial involving 5,000 patients. Graves said that the ITCA 650 diabetes pump will likely be available on the market by 2017.

Photo: Oskar Annermarken | Flickr 

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