NEWS

Device makes it easier for parents to administer growth hormone to their children

Jon Chesto

Delivering daily injections of growth hormones has become easier for parents now that EMD Serono has launched a new electronic device called the ``easypod.''

The Rockland-based biotech firm created the device, which is about the same size as a juice box, with a goal of making it easier for parents and their children to comply with prescriptions for daily doses of Saizen, a treatment that EMD Serono makes for growth hormone deficiency.

The company, a unit of Merck KGgA, began distributing easypods in Europe early this year. But it didn't get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration until late October to distribute easypods in this country. The devices first started arriving at U.S. patients' homes this week, said James Hoyes, EMD Serono's chief commercial officer.

``This is a more patient-friendly approach and a more parent-friendly approach,'' Hoyes said.

Like certain drug delivery devices that resemble fat ballpoint pens, the easypod keeps the injection needle hidden from view. But the easypod is more advanced than its predecessors: It carefully calibrates and records how much of the drug is administered each day, minimizing waste and allowing doctors to check how patients are adhering to their prescriptions.

``We think 20 to 30 percent of kids taking growth hormones don't take it every day the way they are supposed to be,'' said Dr. Stuart Brink, a pediatric endocrinologist at the New England Diabetes and Endocrinology Center in Waltham. ``This will allow us to look at the easypod and see if they're taking the medicine or not. ... It's using the technology in a clever, positive way.''

The devices are manufactured by Flextronics International for EMD Serono, and are provided to patients for free, EMD Serono officials said.

So far, the device can only be used for Saizen, and the company has not yet announced any plans to expand the device's use to other drugs.

 Jon Chesto may be reached at jchesto@ledger.com.