Inhaled Insulin Appeals to Diabetes Patients
More Would Take Insulin if Inhaler Approved, Company-Funded Study Shows
Editor's Note: The FDA approved the inhaled insulin drug Exubera in 2006,
but in October 2007 the drug company Pfizer said it was halting sales of the
drug because of financial reasons.
March 9, 2005 -- Inhaled insulin appeals to people with type 2 diabetes, an
international study shows.
Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Aventis funded the study. The firms seek
FDA approval for their inhaled insulin product, Exubera. Pending safety tests,
no inhaled insulin product is currently on the market. Pfizer is a WebMD
But the findings, from a respected international team of diabetes
researchers, show that inhaled insulin will play at least one major role in
diabetes care. Patients who won't take insulin shots -- even when their doctors
tell them to do so -- would take the inhaled form of the hormone, says
researcher Nick Freemantle, PhD, of the University of Birmingham, U.K.
"Doctors often talk of the difficulty of having patients take what is
often the inevitable next step -- taking insulin at meal time," Freemantle
tells WebMD. "This study suggests that making insulin available in an
inhaled form may help break down those barriers. When people need insulin to
get their diabetes under control, it becomes a less dramatic, less painful
Freemantle's team enrolled 779 adults with type 2 diabetes. Despite
treatment, blood tests showed that their diabetes was poorly controlled.
Researchers offered half the patients standard treatment, including insulin
injection. The other patients were offered the same thing, but were also asked
whether, if it became available, they would take inhaled insulin.
The bottom line: The option of inhaled insulin made it three times more
likely that a patient would choose insulin therapy. Among those offered inhaled
insulin, 43.2% chose insulin treatment. Among those offered only insulin
injections, only 15.5% took the insulin option.
The findings appear in the February issue of Diabetes Care.
The study findings don't surprise Eugene Barrett, MD, PhD, immediate past
president of the American Diabetes Association, and director of the Diabetes
Center at the University of Virginia Health System. Barrett has consulted for
Pfizer but has not done any such work for more than a year.
"Inhaled insulin would be more acceptable for some patients,"
Barrett tells WebMD. "There is an issue -- more for some patients than
others -- with following a doctor's advice to take insulin. For some patients,
an inhaled insulin preparation would be useful because they are afraid or
apprehensive about giving themselves injections. Some people with type 2
diabetes delay or procrastinate -- they just won't go on insulin. But most
times, if you get them over that, they recognize it is not as big a deal as
Freemantle hears this often from the diabetes doctors he works with.