Inhaled Insulin Appeals to Diabetes Patients
More Would Take Insulin if Inhaler Approved, Company-Funded Study Shows
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Freemantle hears this often from the diabetes doctors he works with.
"Oh, the avoidance techniques patients use when their doctors suggest a switch from oral drugs to insulin," he says. They say, 'I'll improve my diet,' or, 'I am going through a difficult time right now,' or 'I will get better.' It leaves a doctor with a sense of powerlessness. If doctors can offer patients something different, like inhaled insulin, it gives them a bit of new ammunition to tackle this problem."
Barrett notes that inhaled insulin won't just be used by those starting insulin therapy. It might also be used by people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes already on injection insulin. When in a social situation at mealtime, a person could use an inhaler instead of a needle to get the insulin dose they need for blood-sugar control. Or, the inhaler could simply offer a break to people taking three to five insulin shots a day.
"I've asked those people, 'Given that you've been taking insulin injections for 10-15 years, if given the chance to inhale some of your insulin doses, would you?' Most say, 'Great, sometimes I'd rather take the inhalation,'" Barrett says.
And Barrett notes that inhalation insulin might be more acceptable than insulin shots for children with type 1 diabetes.
Safety of Inhalation Insulin Still Not Proved
Nobody will be taking inhalation insulin if it isn't safe. So far, there haven't been any major safety problems with inhaled insulin. But insulin isn't a short-term treatment. Patients take it for the rest of their lives. That is why the FDA is taking a hard look at safety data on Exubera.
Meanwhile, Freemantle's team is continuing their study. Instead of merely asking patients whether they would take inhaled insulin, they're now actually offering them the chance to take it. It remains to be seen whether patients really do what they say they will do.