Thanks to ‘Elipse’, a swallowable gastric balloon pill, people with obesity can now avoid painful gastric bypass surgeries to curb their appetite. The balloon can be swallowed in the form of a pill that inflates once it enters the stomach filling a portion of it and creating the sensation of fullness that helps you eat less. A few months later, it self-destructs and passes as waste.
Developed by Allurion Technologies, a Massachusetts-based company, Elipse is being touted as a “safe and effective weight loss tool” that “empowers overweight and obese individuals to reclaim their health.” Currently, gastric balloons are used by doctors across the globe to help treat severe obesity through a highly invasive procedure. The balloons are placed in the stomach endoscopically, left in there for several months, and then removed endoscopically as well.
But according to the company’s website, Elipse – the world’s first procedureless gastric balloon – does not require endoscopy and is designed to self-empty and pass through the gastrointestinal tract. The balloon is packaged into a capsule and attached to a thin, swallowable delivery catheter long enough to reach the patient’ stomach. Once the capsule enters the stomach, it disintegrates, releasing the Elipse.
The Elipse can be filled with 550 ml of fluid in under 10 minutes through the catheter . When the filling is complete, the catheter is detached and removed through the mouth. The filled Elipse will occupy a large portion inside the stomach, reducing the patient’s appetite and improving their chances of shedding excess weight.
“While the Elipse is present in the stomach, you are encouraged to lead a healthier lifestyle and use the Elipse as a tool to assist you in your weight loss journey,” the promotional video states. “The Elipse contains a release valve that opens by itself at the end of therapy, allowing the device to empty. The emptied device is small and flexible, allowing it to transit the gastrointestinal tract until it is excreted.”
Elipse isn’t the first of its kind – last year, a swallowable gastric balloon called Obalon became available in the UK, but it required surgical removal towards the end of therapy period. The Elipse balloon, on the other hand, requires no surgery of any kind. What’s more, it’s seen as completely safe by the medical community and has even been approved for use in the UK and some parts of Europe.
“Our findings demonstrate that Elipse provides individuals and their caregivers with a safe, effective, and non-invasive weight loss intervention that does not require surgery, endoscopy, or anesthesia,” said Ram Chuttani, MD, and chief of Interventional Gastroenterology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He co-authored a study that found that 34 overweight and obese subjects in Greece and the Czech Republic who got the balloon lost an average of 22 pounds after four months, roughly 37 percent of their excess weight.
Although it’s been approved for use, it’s going to be a while (at least two to three years) until Elipse will be made available to users worldwide. Also, a few medical experts are skeptical about its efficacy. Professor Mike Lean, an expert in human nutrition at Glasgow University said it could help with initial weight loss but could not be considered a permanent solution.
“Balloons definitely help some people to lose weight over a short period,” he said. “But they cannot have any long-term effect. Once they are removed, or passed out as waste, they have no further effect, so weight comes back on unless the patient has a long-term weight management strategy.”
Photos: Allurion Technologies