Pill with a tiny needle in it as an alternative to the syringe

A pill that could replace traditional syringes has successfully passed its first human tests, according to the company that developed it.

“It's completely painless,” says Mir Imran, director of Rani Therapeutics, based in San Jose, California. “Not a single patient felt anything.”

He says the results offer hope to millions of people – such as diabetics – who are looking for an alternative to painful injections. It is estimated that one in ten people is afraid of needles.

Pill with needle for painless injection in the intestine

The RaniPill, as it is called, looks like a larger version of a normal pill. If swallowed, it will go through the stomach untouched. The outer shell only dissolves in the less acidic environment of the intestine.

When this happens, a small balloon inflates and presses a small needle into the muscle wall of the intestine and injects the drug that carries the pill. The balloon then deflates and the remnants of the pill are excreted. The intestine has no receptors for sharp pain and heals very quickly.

In a study in Australia, 52 people received RaniPills containing octreotide, a medication used to treat certain types of cancer and growth disorders. They did not feel any pain or discomfort, and the pill was as effective in dispensing the drug as conventional syringes.

Currently, octreotide is given as a large injection into the gluteus muscle once a month. “The patients describe it as incredibly painful,” says Imran.

Pill as an alternative to the conventional syringe

Many medications, such as Insulin, are destroyed in the intestine if swallowed and must be injected directly. But people who hate needles often delay or skip injections and as a result can develop serious complications. A painless alternative to syringes should reduce the risk and make people's lives more comfortable.

According to Imran, Rani Therapeutics is in talks with major pharmaceutical companies and regulators in the United States and the EU, and the company is planning further studies this year. It focuses on injecting nine drugs into the pill, including octreotide and insulin.

“The development of oral insulin would be a breakthrough to simplify the treatment of diabetes,” said Edward Johnston of Diabetes UK.

However, he points out that the full results of the RaniPill study have yet to be published. “It is also important to note that this system requires extensive studies in people with diabetes to really understand its functionality as a replacement for insulin injections,” said Johnston.

Other researchers are also working on similar systems as an alternative to the syringe. A team has developed a pill that is used to inject medication into the stomach lining and not into the intestine. So far, however, they have only been tested on animals.

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