In an ideal world, patients with chronic conditions could take a single pill once a year or undergo a one-time noninvasive treatment that is administered without the need for a hospital or doctor visit. Unfortunately, treatment regimens for many of today's most prevalent chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, require multiple, repeated doses of drug at frequent and regular intervals.
Opportunities for improvement
There are, however, approved products intended for self-injection by patients, usually for autoimmune diseases like those previously mentioned. These include several TNF-α antibody products such as Johnson & Johnson's Simponi and Abbott Laboratories' Humira. These injections are typically designed for delivery into the subcutaneous space. Attributes of these products have allowed for self-administration, including a relatively low dose (< 100 mg) for efficacy and a reduced risk of life-threatening adverse reaction. Both Simponi and Humira are packaged in 1-mL in length prefilled syringes and dosed on a weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly basis, depending on the patient's particular indication.
In the case of most TNF-α therapies, the therapeutic target and properties of the antibodies used have allowed for relatively easy formulation and manufacturing because the final product viscosity is low (less than five centipoise) and because the product can be delivered through commonly available and well-characterized prefillable syringe systems. However, as pharmaceutical companies develop and test antibodies for new therapeutic products, often in the search for better efficacy and reduced side effects, challenges can arise. In cases where the dose required for efficacy is significantly higher than currently approved self-injected products, for example, one must choose between more frequent subcutaneous injections and clinically administered IV infusion.