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No More Needles: Inhaled Insulin Offers Diabetes Patients Choice


Diabetics can now inhale their insulin rather than inject it. A powdered form of the medicine is delivered by a product called Exubera, which is on the market after receiving U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval earlier this year.

Philip Home is a professor of diabetes medicine at the University of Newcastle on Tyne in England. He was in Copenhagen at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [September 14-17] where he got a closer look at Exubera. "The powder is put into a little chamber by pressing a button on a little device, and then you simply breathe in and it carries the air in and it carries the particles in right to the bottom of the lungs," he says. "You then hold your breath for two or three seconds. The insulin sticks to the lining of the lungs and from there the particles break down and can be absorbed across the lining of the lung into the blood stream." Home says the device requires a little bit of manipulation to set it up, but is relatively easy to use.

Studies show the inhaled powder works as well as injected insulin. Home says another form of the drug presented in Copenhagen, but not yet on the market, works like an aerosol spray. "The insulin gets suspended in the air which is in the device, and you can then breathe it in. All you have to do is put your mouth around the mouth piece and then take a brief breath."

Home says the major drawback for this and other products is cost. "Making them available to everybody with diabetes who is going onto insulin is going to be a tricky issue at the moment."

But Philip Home expects the price will come down as competition increases among manufacturers. He hopes that as more of these easy-to-use products become available, more diabetics will start taking insulin sooner and reap the health benefits of the treatment.

Rosanne Skirble's complete interview with Philip Home

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