Lubricant to improve comfort for catheter users

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A new pharmaceutical product that could significantly improve quality of life for catheter users is to be developed at Queen’s University Belfast after it won a national award.

Uroglide is a new coating for catheters that aims to make insertion easier, less painful and with reduced risk of inflammation or infection. There are currently 26,000 intermittent catheter users in the UK who insert and remove disposable catheters between four and eight times per day.

Aimed at the global healthcare market, including the USA’s estimated 300,000 intermittent catheter users, Uroglide-coated catheters are currently undergoing independent testing and could be available both on the NHS and privately by next year.

The Uroglide technology was developed by Prof Colin McCoy, from Queen’s University’s School of Pharmacy, and Dr Nicola Irwin, the key scientist for the project. Dr Irwin was one of seven national winners of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise fellowships, which gives academics £85,000 each to develop their research into commercial products.

In a statement, Prof McCoy said: ‘For patients with poor control over their bladders, intermittent self-catheterisation – which involves the regular insertion of catheters into the bladder via the urethra – has become the norm. This is largely due to the lower infection risk and greater personal independence associated with them. In fact, over 600 million of this type of catheter are now sold globally each year. Regular insertion of poorly lubricated catheters, however, is painful and can lead to difficult-to-treat urethral complications, such as damage, bleeding and inflammation. The coatings that are currently used dry out quickly and they’ve changed very little in over a decade. 

‘With our team at Queen’s and support from Invest Northern Ireland, we developed a new coating that’s cheaper than the industry standard, yet stays wet for longer, is more slippery, and adheres strongly to the catheter. By easing insertion and removal, it should improve the patient’s experience and make a life-changing difference to their dignity and health.

According to Dr Irwin, the fellowship award will provide the Belfast team with 12 months of funding, mentoring and training to develop their research into a spin-out company.

She said: ‘Our technology has already been externally validated by a team of world-renowned entrepreneurs and provides a key example of how Queen’s research is being exported from the laboratory to the global marketplace and making an impact on society.’