The vagina as a route of drug delivery is not new, as Merck & Co.’s contraceptive drug Nuvaring is administered using an intra-vaginal ring (IVR).
But an IVR developed by drug delivery pioneer Robert Langer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and William Crowley from Harvard Medical School could help deliver larger molecules such as peptides, according to Columbia Laboratories which has licensed the worldwide rights to the technology.
“The current first in class product IVR ring, Nuvaring uses ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) which is covered with a membrane which precludes the delivery of large molecules such as peptides,” Columbia Labs’ Nikin Patel told in-Pharmatechnologist.com.
“Our patents cover - amongst others - the use of membrane free rings enabling delivery of small and larger molecules; they also cover the use of multiple segmented rings which allow for delivery at different rates and combination of drugs.”
This gives Columbia Labs’s new platform an advantage over other IVRs in development, such as technology being developed at Northwestern University which uses a polyurethane hollow ring filled with drug powder and sodium chloride for the delivery of anti-retrovirals, Patel added.
Columbia Labs will also benefit from the experience of Langer and Crowley who have joined the firm as strategic advisors, supporting deployment of the technology and future development.
"This technology affords the opportunity to expand intra-vaginal delivery of drugs to include larger molecules, such as peptides, alone and in combination," Langer said, while Crowley added such a system "provides patients with a simplified drug delivery system and should improve compliance and therefore treatment effectiveness."
Intra-vaginal drug delivery is well-tolerated with good patient compliance, according to a paper in the Journal of Controlled Release (103 (2005) 301–313, “The vagina as a route for systemic drug delivery”).
Further benefits include local delivery, which reduces systemic levels and reduces first pass metabolism compared to oral delivery, according to Patel.
The candidates being developed with this IVR have not been announced, but Columbia already has experience in intra-vaginal drugs through its progesterone gel Crinone - marketed in the US by Actavis – sales of which fund the firm’s proprietary product development programme.