Novo Nordisk targets early 2014 for kid-friendly insulin pen

NovoPen Echo--Courtesy of Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) wrapped up FDA clearance for a new insulin injection pen designed with children in mind, a step that helps address broader concerns about the lack of medical devices for pediatric patients.

The company eyes an early 2014 U.S. rollout for the NovoPen Echo. Executives bill it as the first insulin pen device of its kind cleared for U.S. use with the capacity for fine dose adjustments, plus a memory function that tracks the amount and time of previous doses. Novo Nordisk points out their product will be particularly useful for pediatric patients, in part because of the dose adjustment and tracking features, helping kids to stay on track with their regimen. And in an apparent nod to a culture in which customers can buy customized skins for their smartphones, patients are able to make their insulin pens more unique with different removable skins.

U.S. clearance follows previous launches of NovoPen Echo in Europe, Canada and Israel.

Novo Nordisk made a smart move here in a number of ways. Obviously, NovoPen Echo will boost U.S. care options for pediatric and other patients with diabetes, which is always a good thing. But it is also a smart public relations move on a wider scale, countering criticisms of the medical device industry as a whole that it doesn't factor in the unique medical needs of children (versus adult patients) when developing new products.

The complaint has been out there for years, but it continues to resurface. In June, for example, a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine noted that children with complex medical conditions face additional risks having to rely on life-saving devices and implants designed for adult patients. Device companies have agreed with the need for more pediatric devices, but they've clashed with the FDA over how to address it.

Meanwhile, some are trying to meet the call for more pediatric devices. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, are jointly developing medical devices specific to pediatric care. Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Ben-Gurion University in Israel also forged a similar partnership.

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