The Gastrointestinal Market

The health of the gastrointestinal, or GI, system has a major effect on an individual’s daily activities and quality of life. A retrospective review published by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimated that in 2004 there were more than 72 million ambulatory care visits with a diagnosis of a GI disorder in the United States alone. The annual cost of these GI disorders in 2004, not including digestive cancers and viral diseases, was estimated to be greater than $114 billion in direct and indirect expenditures, including hospital, physician and nursing services as well as over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

In 2004, the total cost of prescription drugs in the United States was $12.3 billion over half of this cost ($7.7 billion) was associated with drugs prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Peptic ulcer disease, hepatitis C, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, and inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, were major contributors to the remaining drug cost. Historically GI product development efforts have focused on indications with the largest patient populations such as GERD, constipation, peptic ulcers and IBS. As a result, limited innovation has occurred in other segments of the GI market, such as upper GI motility disorders, even though these disorders affect several million patients worldwide. Consequently, due to the limited treatment options available for upper GI motility disorders, we believe there is a substantial market opportunity for us to address significant unmet medical needs, initially for diabetic gastroparesis.

GI Motility Disorders

Motility disorders are one of the most common GI disorders. Motility disorders affect the orderly contractions or relaxation of the GI tract which move contents forward and prevent backwards egress. This is important in the normal movement of food through the GI tract. Motility disorders are sometimes referred to as functional GI disorders to highlight that many abnormalities in stomach function can occur even when anatomic structures appear normal. Functional GI disorders affect the upper and lower GI tract and include gastroparesis, GERD, functional dyspepsia, constipation and IBS. It has been estimated by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders that one in four people in the United States suffer from functional GI disorders, having signs and symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, decreased appetite, early satiety, swallowing difficulties, heartburn, vomiting and/or incontinence.


Gastroparesis is a debilitating, chronic condition that has a significant impact on patients’ lives. It is characterized by slow or delayed gastric emptying and evidence of gastric retention in the absence of mechanical obstruction. Muscular contractions in the stomach, which move food into the intestine, may be too slow, out of rhythm or erratic.

The stomach is a muscular sac between the esophagus and the small intestine where the digestion of food begins. The stomach makes acids and enzymes referred to as gastric juices which are mixed with food by the churning action of the stomach muscles. Peristalsis is the contraction and relaxation of the stomach muscles to physically breakdown food and propel it forward. The crushed and mixed food is liquefied to form chyme and is pushed through the pyloric canal into the small intestine in a controlled and regulated manner.

In gastroparesis, the stomach does not perform these functions normally causing characteristic flares of signs and symptoms that include nausea, early satiety, prolonged fullness, bloating, upper abdominal pain, vomiting and retching. As a result of these signs and symptoms, patients may limit their food and liquid intake leading to poor nutrition, experience dehydration and electrolyte disturbances due to vomiting, have poor blood glucose control, and ultimately require hospitalization. If left untreated or not adequately treated, gastroparesis causes significant acute and chronic medical problems, including additional diabetic complications resulting from poor glucose control.

Gastroparesis in the Hospital Setting

When patients experience a flare of their gastroparesis symptoms that cannot be adequately managed by oral medications, they may be hospitalized for hydration, parenteral nutrition, and correction of abnormal blood glucose electrolyte levels. In this setting, intravenous metoclopramide is the first line of treatment. Typically, these diabetic patients with severe gastroparesis symptoms remain in the hospital until they are stabilized and able to be effectively treated with oral metoclopramide. These hospitalizations are costly and expose patients to increased risks, including hospital-acquired infections.

The number of patients with gastroparesis that require hospitalization due to their disease is growing, according to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2008. Additionally, the study reported, from 1995 to 2004, total hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of gastroparesis increased 158%. Hospital admissions for patients with gastroparesis as the secondary diagnosis increased 136%. The average length of stay for a patient is approximately six days at an estimated cost of approximately $22,000. Compared to the other four most common upper GI admission diagnoses (GERD, gastric ulcer, gastritis or nonspecific nausea/vomiting), gastroparesis had the longest length of stay and one of the highest total charges per stay. Additionally, the study estimates that costs associated with gastroparesis as the primary or secondary diagnosis for admission exceeded $3.5 billion in 2004.

A study of patients in clinics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center between January 2004 and December 2008 published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, showed that patients with diabetic or post-surgical gastroparesis had significantly more emergency room visits than other gastroparesis groups. The study reinforced the view that gastroparesis constitutes a significant burden for patients and the healthcare system, with more than one-third of patients requiring hospitalization. The number of emergency room visits and annual days of inpatient treatment were comparable to patients with Crohn’s disease. The study indicated that patients received an average of 6.7 prescriptions on admission. Eighty percent of the patients identified in the University of Pittsburgh study were women.


Gastroparesis can be a manifestation of many systemic illnesses, arise as a complication of select surgical procedures, or develop due to unknown causes. Any disease inducing neuromuscular dysfunction of the GI tract can result in gastroparesis, with diabetes being one of the leading known causes. In a 2007 study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports, 29% of gastroparesis cases were found in association with diabetes, 13% developed as a complication of surgery and 36% were due to unknown causes. According to the American Motility Society Task Force on Gastroparesis, up to 4% of the U.S. population experiences symptomatic manifestations of gastroparesis. As the incidence of diabetes rises worldwide, the prevalence of gastroparesis is expected to rise correspondingly.

The most common identified cause of gastroparesis is diabetes mellitus. The underlying mechanism of diabetic gastroparesis is unknown, though it is thought to be related in part to neuropathic changes in the vagus nerve and/or the myenteric plexus. Prolonged elevated serum glucose levels are also associated with vagus nerve damage. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract and when it is damaged, movement of food through the GI tract may be abnormal. The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is rapidly rising with the Centers for Disease Control estimating that one in ten adults currently suffer from the disease. Sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary habits and a consequent rising prevalence of obesity are expected to cause this number to grow substantially.

According to a study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases in July 2010, between 25% and 55% of type 1 and 15% and 30% of type 2 diabetics suffer from symptoms associated with the condition and diabetics are 29% of the total gastroparesis population. A 2007 study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports states that approximately 36% of gastroparesis patients suffer from idiopathic gastroparesis. The development of idiopathic gastroparesis is thought to be related to loss of myenteric ganglion cells in the distal large bowel (myenteric hypoganglionosis) and reduction in the interstitial cells of Cajal, which help control contraction of the smooth muscle in the GI tract. Post-surgical gastroparesis is a smaller subset of the total patient pool and accounts for approximately 13% of all cases of the disease, according to a 2007 study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports. Post-surgical gastroparesis is often associated with peptic ulcer surgery, bariatric procedures or esophageal procedures and is thought to result from damage/desensitization of the vagus nerve.


In 2012, the American Diabetes Association estimated that diabetes affects approximately 29.1 million people of all ages in the United States, equating to about 9.3% of the U.S. population. Based on prevalence data, the potential gastroparesis patient pool in the United States is approximately 12 to 16 million adults with women making up 82% of this population, according to a 2007 study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports. There are 2.3 million diabetic patients with moderate or severe gastroparesis symptoms who are seeking treatment in the United States by a health care professional, according to a study presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida. When patients do receive treatment for gastroparesis, multiple medications are frequently used to address the individual signs and symptoms of gastroparesis. For example, patients may receive anti-emetics for nausea and vomiting and opioids for abdominal pain, which can exacerbate delayed gastric emptying in patients with gastroparesis.

See Additional Information about Gastroparesis

Unmet Needs in Gastroparesis Treatment

Market research and physician interviews demonstrate that existing treatment options for diabetic gastroparesis are inadequate and there is a high level of interest in effective outpatient options for managing patients with gastroparesis symptoms. The market is currently served by oral and intravenous metoclopramide, and the oral disintegrating tablet, or ODT, formulation of metoclopramide (Metozolv® ODT), with approximately 4.5 million prescriptions in the United States per year, according to IMS Health.

Due to the limited availability of FDA-approved treatments for gastroparesis, physicians resort to using medications “off-label” in an attempt to address individual symptoms experienced by patients. Off-label therapies are pharmaceuticals prescribed by physicians for an unapproved indication or in an unapproved age group, unapproved dose or unapproved form of administration. Examples of drugs used without FDA approval in gastroparesis include; erythromycin, domperidone, and Botox® injected via endoscopic procedure directly into the lower gastric sphincter. Previously-approved drugs, such as cisapride and tegaserod, are no longer commercially available in the United States because of safety concerns. Domperidone has never been approved by FDA but is obtained through certain compounding pharmacies for individual patients under special FDA usage rules.