Taking a bite out of the slow-release drugs market

Calcident’s tiny container can release anything from calcium to protect the teeth, to breath fresheners, or prescription drugs.An invention that could spur a revolution in the way drugs are given and an entirely new approach to how breath is freshened, …

Calcident’s tiny container can release anything from calcium to protect the teeth, to breath fresheners, or prescription drugs.An invention that could spur a revolution in the way drugs are given and an entirely new approach to how breath is freshened, owes its origins to an Israeli dentist looking for a way to prevent cavities.

Dr. Erella Pines developed a tiny container that could be attached to the teeth to provide a continuous supply of a calcium formulation that would dissolve into the saliva and circulate among the teeth, protecting them from damage.

Collaborating with Dr. Yoram Sela, a specialist in the sustained release of medications, Dr. Pines carried out a study in which they were able to show that the disposable container could significantly increase the amount of cavity-preventing calcium in the mouth.

To commercialize their patented invention, Calcident was founded. After discussions with pharmaceutical industry experts, they soon realized that they were on to something much bigger than dental care.

“There is a huge need in the pharmaceutical industry to help people who need to take medications many times a day,” says Amnon Engelberg, who serves as CEO of Calcident.

Together with Engelberg, the Calcident inventors decided to apply the device to the slow-release delivery of pharmaceuticals. They focused first on improving the way that AIDS and cancer patients receive a drug to alleviate the severe mouth sores caused by AIDS or chemotherapy.

The current approach is to give the patients the drug, known as Clotrimazole, which sells for over $600 million a year, in medicated lozenges five times a day.

“Instead of having to constantly take the medicated lozenges throughout the day, they will simply insert the Calcident disposable container once a day,” Engelberg tells ISRAEL21c.

The Calcident container discharges a special slow-release formulation of Clotrimazole at desired levels during a 24-hour period.

Calcident has just received approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health to carry out a clinical study with patients at the Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem.

Engelberg points out that the company’s special formulation takes advantage of the fact that the body produces more than a liter and a half of saliva every day and uses the saliva as a natural distribution system. “There are numerous other drugs that are not effective because patients forget or have difficulties taking them so many times a day,” he explains.

Engelberg expects the company’s technology to be used to improve many existing medications and to take advantage of the fact that the Calcident container even makes it possible for patients to take drugs while asleep.

But using the container for prescription drugs may just be the tip of the iceberg.

“The container can easily be applied to the $5 billion American oral care market where there is a constant demand for new breath fresheners and other products,” says Engelberg who envisions a Calcident container that enables users to wake up with fresh breath.

Asked if consumers will find the container obtrusive, Engelberg replies that research by the company shows that users quickly get used to it. “After a short time they no longer feel its presence, as with orthodontic braces and dentures,” he explains.

So far Calcident has obtained funding from the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist and private investors. Based in the Granot Business Incubator near Hadera, in the center of Israel, the company is currently embarking on a fund-raising campaign in the US and other countries in order to accelerate the product’s development and clinical testing.