Don't Get Pumped Up About Pumping It In

When all else fails, pump it in.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) and medical-device maker Medtronic (NYSE: MDT  ) have teamed up to develop a new drug-device combination for Parkinson's disease.

Eli Lilly's drug based on glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF, is designed to promote survival of nerve cells that die in Parkinson's patients. But the drug needs to get to the specific part of the brain to work. Take it orally, and it'll likely be broken down by the acid in the stomach. Inject it, and the concentration in the brain where it's needed won't be high enough.

Enter Medtronic, which has a catheter pump system that could deliver a constant supply of drug to the specific area of the brain. If it works, it could potentially slow the disease progression, which would be better than current drugs, which essentially just treat the symptoms.

Not that we should expect to see a dropoff in sales of current offerings like Teva Pharmaceuticals's (Nasdaq: TEVA  ) Azilect or Novartis's (NYSE: NVS  ) Stalevo. And up and comers like Impax Laboratories' (Nasdaq: IPXL  ) IPX066 aren't in any danger either. The duo has a long way to go before they can bring the drug-device to market.

Furthermore, there's no guarantee it'll work. Back in 2004, Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) tried a similar strategy with its version of GDNF to no avail. Eli Lilly and Medtronic obviously think that improvements on the drug and/or device side of the equation will be enough to result in a better outcome, but Parkinson's is known to be one tough disease to treat.

Trying to pump the drug in is worth a shot. Investors just shouldn't get pumped up about the chances for the drug-device to work.

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Novartis and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries are Motley Fool Global Gains recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Medtronic and Teva. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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