Good news for insulin users: the United States FDA has approved the first generic glucagon rescue injection. Soon that vital and occasionally life-saving backup plan should come at a much lower cost.
Until recently, if you had a glucagon rescue kit in your diabetes bag, it was the injection kit made by Lilly, the pharmaceutical titan. The last couple years, however, saw some welcome innovation in the glucagon market, with two easier-to-use products adding to the choices for people with diabetes. Perhaps most exciting was the release of Baqsimi, a nasal spray glucagon. Also debuting were the Gvoke syringe and pen, both pre-filled with glucagon, no mixing required. These new products are all significantly easier to administer than the traditional glucagon shot, which requires the (potentially untrained) user to mix two substances before delivering the injection. Easier said than done in a stressful situation.
While the new generic glucagon will require the complicated mixing procedure, it nevertheless remains a cause for celebration. Not everyone has the pocket money or robust insurance to pay for next-generation glucagon. The FDA’s rigorous approval process ensures that the new generic version will be just as safe and effective as the Lilly product it is modeled after.
Glucagon is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that causes the liver to convert stored sugars (glycogen) into glucose and to release them into the bloodstream. In a healthy metabolism, the glucagon engages the liver routinely to strike a fine glycemic balance. In emergency situations—typically when a diabetes sufferer has experienced hypoglycemia so severe that he or she cannot consciously ingest any food or drink—an injection of exogenous glucagon causes the liver to quickly dump large amounts of sugar into the blood. It can save lives.
Amphastar Pharmaceuticals is the company that pushed for the approval. There’s no word yet on the cost Amphastar’s generic glucagon injection. A representative told ace Medscape reporter Miriam Tucker, “We are confident that our generic to Lilly’s time-tested glucagon will provide a favorable option, at a reasonable price, to patients who rely on this product.”