Galen has announced the launch of a new “innovative medical food” for the treatment of phenylketonuria.

The disorder, also known as PKU, is a rare, inherited metabolic disorder that affects approximately 70 babies each year in the UK.

The company, who acquired POA Pharma - the original owner of the drug - say that the new PKU EASY Microtabs now provide a palatable alternative to other protein substitutes on the market, to help patients aged eight and above manage the “incurable condition” and consume the protein they need each day.

The inherited disorder prevents the body from breaking down the proteins in foods to amino acids and if unmanaged, can lead to brain damage. Most patients in the UK are diagnosed at birth via the heel-prick test, and are immediately started on treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications.

In addition to the treatment a lifelong, restrictive diet is required to limit the intake of phenylalanine, an amino acid found in natural high-protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs and nuts. This is replaced with specially-designed medical foods to support the body’s everyday functions.

however, a survey conducted in 2018 found that the currently available medical foods were deemed as “unpleasant”, making it harder for the patients to stick to a regime.

In response, Galen says that the PKU Easy Microtabs are small, with two distinct coatings that have been designed to overcome this challenge. The first delivers a “palatable” taste experience and prevents the tablet from dissolving before it hits the stomach, minimising acid reflux and bad breath; the second enables a slow release of amino acids into the body.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that people living with PKU rely heavily on medical foods to supplement their diet in order to get the level of protein needed for good health” explained Simon Lawrence, Commercial Director of Galen Nordics. “Yet we know from the community that many of the available options have an off-putting smell, taste bad and leave the patient with bad breath because of how they are digested. Today’s launch gives UK patients a more pleasant choice that other countries have already enjoyed the benefit of for years.”

The tabs were first launched by POA Pharma across Scandinavia in 2011, but until now, have not been available to UK patients via the NHS.