Doctors announce new way to treat diabetes with one simple technique

Person taking insulin
-Credit: (Image: GETTY)

Diabetes UK estimates that 4.4 million people in the UK are living with the health condition that sees them requiring daily insulin injections or the use of a pump to deliver the vital hormone into their body. However, a new study has revealed a potential third method of delivery as the Diabetes Care Center of the University of Washington Medical Center has been looking at an inhaled form of insulin.

The insulin inhaler works similarly to an asthma inhaler and a study led by Dr. Irl B. Hirsch, M.D., medical director of the Diabetes Care Center, found it could work just as well as the injections or pumps for some type 1 diabetics. The clinical trial used a product called Afrezza, the only inhaled insulin currently available, made by MannKind Corporation which received FDA approval in 2014.

A total of 141 adults were monitored during 17 weeks of the study, some using Afrezza, fast-acting insulin inhaled into the lungs before meals, and others required to use traditional methods of insulin delivery. At the 17-week mark, all participants switched to the inhaler for 13 weeks. Their glucose levels were closely monitored at the start of the study and then again at 17 and 30 weeks.

The group that used the inhaler for all 30 weeks saw 30% of participants reaching their target glucose levels compared to 17% of people using injections and pumps for the 17 weeks. There was no difference reported between the groups in terms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Overall, the lead doctor noted that there was “no difference in our primary endpoint” but claimed this is “misleading” adding: “Many patients did better with their glucose control, while others did worse." The results of Dr Hirsch’s study were presented last week at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in Florida, according to Fox News Digital, and the expert told the outlet: “Not everyone reaches the target with multiple injections or pumps, and there are many pros and cons with each therapy”.

In terms of side effects, the most common was a cough and throat pain or irritation but Dr Hirsch insisted “no major concerns were seen”. Ultimately, Dr Hirsch indicated it may come down to a personal preference as “inhaling insulin isn't for everyone” but the inhaler did benefit some people more than using the pumps and more than half of the participants said they would opt to stay on the inhaled insulin therapy at the end of the study.

The American Diabetes Association acknowledged the promise of the study, telling Fox News Digital it “adds value to the options in insulin therapy”. According to the manufacturer, Afrezza has been linked to a risk of acute bronchospasm in patients with chronic lung conditions such as asthma or COPD and people who smoke or recently quit are advised not to use the medication.