- Eventually, we might be able to consider daily pills a thing of the past.
- That’s the vision of Lyndra, a company developing technology that transforms daily pills into weekly treatments.
- The hope is by taking a pill only once a week, you’re less likely to forget a dose, something that’s critical when treating conditions like HIV.
One day, a daily prescription will feel as outdated as not having an answering machine.
That’s the vision of Amy Schulman, CEO of the startup Lyndra. Lyndra’s developing pills that can be taken on a weekly basis instead of once a day.
“I imagine a world where my children’s children will say to me, ‘I don’t understand – you took a pill every day?’ And it will be as inconceivable to them that I took a pill every day as it is to my children that I had to argue with their grandparents over getting an answering machine,” Schulman said.
An estimated $US100 billion of avoidable medical costs are attributed to people not taking their medications as prescribed. And for many daily treatments, skipping a pill can be a major issue that leads to the drug not being as effective in the long run or even developing resistance to the medications in the case of HIV.
Lyndra was founded in 2015 after the Gates Foundation provided a grant to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Bob Langer to develop a long-acting malaria prevention treatment. In 2017, the company raised $US23 million in funding to get into human clinical trials.
While the pill technology could be used for any number of daily medications, to start Lyndra’s focusing in on a few areas. Those include neurologic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease in partnership with Allergan, behavioural conditions, and one day potentially developing longer-acting treatments for diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
And in January, the company showed that in animals it could deliver commonly-used HIV medication on a weekly basis, rather than needing to take it every day.
How a starfish-shaped pill could change the way we take medication
The weeklong pill might look like any other vitamin or pill you take that comes in a capsule. What’s different is what’s inside.
Once the pill hits the stomach, the capsul dissolves and the pill opens up with six biodegradable arms that fold out in the shape of a starfish and emit the drug.
“Like most great solutions, once you figure it out it’s really simple,” Schulman said.
Lyndra isn’t the only company trying to figure out how to make people more adherent to their medications. That includes coming out with injectable versions that only require you to take it once or twice a month, and implanted devices. But those pose their own challenges, since they can be more invasive or require more medical attention than a simple prescription.
Especially when it comes to treating HIV, access to a clinic where you might be able to get an injection could be limited, Schulman said.
“People would by and large prefer to take a pill,” Schulman said.