New Methods May Mean Fewer Insulin Shots for Diabetics
WebMD News Archive
Arthur Krosnick, MD, a researcher involved in early tests of the device,
says patients tell him they like it because it's easy to use. "Time and
again, they have said, 'If I had my druthers, I would rather have this device
than a needle,'" he says.
Although it has only been tested in adults, Krosnick, a diabetologist and
clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in
Princeton, N.J., says the spray inhaler is simple enough that kids should be
able to use it, if studies show it works as well for them.
The spray device has been tested in about 300 patients in the U.S. and other
countries. In Canada, long-term trials -- the final step before drug approval
-- recently began. The U.S. equivalent of those studies is expected to begin
within the next two or three months, Krosnick says.
But a few hurdles must be cleared before the devices are approved for use.
One potential problem is that, unlike injections that are precisely measured,
inhaled doses may not be exactly the same each time people take them. Another
concern is that taking particles deep into the lungs could cause breathing
problems in some people, or lead to unhealthy changes in lung cells.
Skyler says some patients have been on the inhaled insulin for at least
three years with no apparent lung problems. He adds that animal studies do not
support the idea that insulin causes unhealthy cell changes in the lung. In
human studies, testing of lung function has shown no changes among insulin
inhalers, according to Inhale Therapeutic Systems, one of several companies
that are developing inhaled insulin products.
Although an insulin pill might be easiest of all to use, insulin is
currently only taken by injection. That's because it is a protein, which can be
broken down in the stomach, like food, before it starts to work on blood sugar.
Insulin injections get the drug into the bloodstream fast, and are typically
taken before eating and before going to bed. The challenge for researchers has
been to convert the insulin into a form that can be absorbed in a way that
bypasses the stomach's acids.