SCHOTT solutions no. 1/2011 > Pen Systems

With the pen as an injection device, the insulin dosage can be administered more easily, with greater precision, and, even more importantly, more reliably and comfortably. Photo: Novo Nordisk

Combating a Widespread Disease with High-Tech

Diabetes is gaining ground all over the world. Patient-friendly pen systems feature cartridges from schott.

Michael Bonewitz

For the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in Brussels, diabetes mellitus is the ”epidemic of the 21st century”. The name refers to the main symptom of a disease that was first identified more than 4,000 years ago: sugar in urine. In diabetics, the interaction between insulin and sugar inside the human body is disturbed in a variety of ways. And has fatal effects. Without insulin, the cells are unable to take up any more sugar. This has a significant influence on many body functions. For instance, a lack of sugar results in a general feeling of weakness and tiredness.

”Around 285 million people all over the world suffer from diabetes. And the number of those affected has nearly doubled over the past ten years alone,” explains Dr. Jürgen Sackhoff, Executive Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Systems Division at SCHOTT.

A distinction is made between two main types of diseases: type 1 diabetes mellitus, which is quite rare, can occur at any age, but most of the people it affects are under 20 years of age when it first breaks out. With those who come down with type 1 diabetes mellitus, the body is unable to produce any more insulin, therefore receiving a daily supply of insulin that suits one’s own lifestyle and eating habits is vital.

90 percent of all diabetics suffer from type 2, however. This disease commonly occurs in middle-aged adults who are often overweight. While their pancreas produces enough insulin initially, it is released too slowly and at the wrong time or has an insufficient effect due to resistance to the insulin effect. In addition to a hereditary predisposition, an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise are other key risk factors.

Diabetes mellitus is often referred to as a lifestyle disease for this very reason. Experts project that outbreaks of diabetes will rise significantly in many countries. According to forecasts, more than 170 million people will come down with diabetes in the so-called BRIC countries alone, Brazil, Russia, India and China, by 2030.
Novo Nordisk introduced the world‘s first insulin pen to the market in the format of a pen that featured exchangeable insulin cartridges, as an alternative to injections, back in 1985. This patient-friendly form of administration is now standard. Photo: Novo Nordisk
This development presents the pharmaceutical industry with new challenges all over the world. The pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk that has set itself the highest goal of one day finding a cure to diabetes is known to be a pioneer in the area of insulin research. The company founder and Nobel Prize winner August Krogh was even personally affected by it because his wife Marie suffered from type 2 diabetes. In 1921, they visited the research center of the University of Toronto together, the first institution to ever treat people with insulin. It was here that August Krogh received permission to start producing insulin in Scandinavia.

Today, with some 30,000 employees, Novo Nordisk is a pharmaceutical group that is active internationally and has its main headquarters in Denmark and subsidiaries in 79 countries. Approximately 15 percent of its sales are invested toward research and development. Novo Nordisk is thus not only the largest private research company in all of Denmark, but also the world’s largest investor in research on diabetes mellitus. Last year, the company that specializes in protein-based drugs and hormones spent around 1 billion euros for research in this area alone.

1985: The world’s first insulin pen is introduced to the market

The pen system certainly ranks as one of the pioneering inventions in the treatment of diabetes. Novo Nordisk introduced the world’s first insulin pen the size of a fountain pen that featured replaceable insulin cartridges to the marketplace back in 1985. Until then, insulin was only administered using a syringe. This often resulted in diabetics being disparaged as drug addicts. When the pen is used as an injection device, however, the application is not only more discreet, preparing the dosage with the help of a cartridge is also much easier, more accurate, and, even more importantly, more reliable, individually adjustable and comfortable. In short, more patient-friendly. The active ingredient is stored inside a cartridge that is inserted into the pen system. SCHOTT is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of these glass bodies. The company is thus able to supply pharmaceutical firms with cartridges that offer very tight dimensional and cosmetic tolerances. These are of particular importance to filling products properly and efficiently in state-of-the-art filling plants. ”Our pen systems are really high-tech products. The objective here is to offer extreme precision and top-quality, especially with the glass bodies, and SCHOTT is the leader in this field,” explains Jörn Oldigs, Managing Director of Novo Nordisk Pharma GmbH in Germany.
Exercise helps in the fight against diabetes. This explains why Novo Nordisk and SCHOTT sponsor the Novo Nordisk Gutenberg Marathon in Mainz, Germany. Photo: Novo Nordisk
To meet the high requirements of its customers, SCHOTT uses Fiolax® tubing glass as the starting material. This special- purpose glass stands for good processability, thanks to its narrow tolerances and high cosmetic quality. The company’s state-of-the-art production lines for processing it all over the world are equipped with an in-line process control system. This not only ensures that the dimensions of the glass body are checked thoroughly, but also that even the smallest cosmetic defects in glass surfaces, like scratches, are detected. By using the highly sensitive visual “Automatic Inspection System” (AIS) that the company developed on its own, damages that can cause glass breakage during the subsequent filling process can be avoided
SCHOTT is the leading manufacturer of cartridges for pen systems and uses SCHOTT Fiolax® glass tubing for these in order to be able to meet even the highest customer demands. Photo: SCHOTT/Hauser & Eisenhut
“Our manufacturing plants operate on a global basis and use uniform production lines,” says Dr. Bernhard Hladik, Product Manager for cartridges at SCHOTT. ”This enables us to supply our customers all over the world with products of the same high quality from various sites,” he adds.

Novo Nordisk’s German branch office and SCHOTT AG’s headquarters are both based in Mainz. In the meantime, the fact that they are located so close to each other has led to an initiative whose slogan is ”A Future Perspective for Diabetes.” In addition to activities in the area of science and research, the focus is also on education and prevention. Furthermore, both companies sponsor the Novo Nordisk Gutenberg Marathon to draw attention to the importance of regular exercise, especially as a way of preventing type 2 diabetes. <|
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