Lars Sorensen, Novo’s chief executive, speaking at the Reuters Health Summit, said the company could introduce a oral insulin tablet to the market within six years.
A number of companies have already tried to develop inhaled insulin, including Pfizer Inc, whose product Exubera, was discontinued in 2007. This form of insulin has raised concerns that it could cause lung damage.
The main challenge for scientists trying to develop insulin tablets is that insulin degrades quickly in the stomach, meaning only a very small amount reaches the bloodstream. Novo may have found a way around the problem.
According to Sorensen, first product candidates are currently going into human clinical trials.
The development of an oral insulin is part of a broader push by Novo Nordisk to develop next-generation diabetes treatments. The company is also working to develop the first tablet form of its protein-based injectable diabetes drug Victoza (competing with Eli Lilly’s and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Byetta) which is yet to be approved in the US.