Lilly Acquires Rights to Nasal Glucagon

The deal might be evidence that injectable glucagon is on its way out.

Locemia Solutions ULC glucagon nasal powder device. June 2, 2015 Locemia Solutions 8505 Chemin Dalton Montreal, QC H4T 1V5 http://www.locemia.com


One of the biggest pharmaceutical companies is placing a big bet that nasal glucagon is going to get FDA approval in the near future.

Eli Lilly and Co. has acquired the worldwide rights to a nasal glucagon product being developed by Locemia Solutions, according to a recent press release. As is often the case in such announcements, financial terms have not yet been disclosed, and both companies have given generic quotes about how the deal was a good thing for everyone. Lilly, it should be noted, currently has the corner on the market for the standard mix-and-inject glucagon kits.

Lilly’s deal for nasally absorbed glucagon can only be seen as a huge vote of confidence for this treatment, which Locemia officials are hoping will replace injectable glucagon for the treatment of severe hypoglycemia. The announcement of the deal comes after Locemia has enjoyed a series of positive trial results for nasal glucagon in 2015; the most recent study data released showed the treatment proved safe for children, ages 4 to 17, with Type 1. No timeline has been given for seeking FDA approval for the product.

The acquisition is an attempt by Lilly to bolster its troubled drug pipeline. In October, FierceBiotech reported that the company pulled the plug on the development of evacetrapib, a drug meant to ward off heart attacks and strokes, after investing $90 million in costly clinical trials. Lilly has endured a steady string of failed drug development in recent years, according to the report.

With this industry news in mind, the acquisition could be interpreted two ways – either Lilly is desperate enough to take a chance on the nasal glucagon treatment, or it is sufficiently risk averse enough to only bet on a slam dunk. The positive trial data seems to suggest the latter.

With the acquisition, Lilly has essentially co-opted one of its potential future competitors. Xeris Pharmaceuticals is also developing a new glucagon delivery method, one that would still be injectable, but wouldn’t need to be refrigerated or mixed before use. The move puts Lilly in the awkward situation of helping bring a glucagon product to market that could make its current glucagon kit obsolete, but company officials most likely see the writing on the wall for mix-and-inject glucagon.

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Craig Idlebrook is chief editor for Insulin Nation and Información Sobre Diabetes, and was founding editor for Type 2 Nation. You can reach him at cidlebrook@selfrx.com.