Insulin injections are one of the many not-so-fun parts of life for people who have Type 1 diabetes. New methods, such as the inhalable insulin Afrezza, are becoming available to make life easier for people with diabetes.
How does it work?
Inhaled insulin works faster than injected insulin because it reaches the lung tissue immediately upon inhalation. It can diffuse into the bloodstream faster than an insulin molecule injected into the skin.
The medication takes effect faster than injected insulin. The first measurable effect starts in about 12 minutes, and it has a peak effect at about 35 to 45 minutes. It lasts for about 1.5 to 3 hours, and stops working depending on how much you’ve used.
This faster action can help overcome mealtime challenges related to insulin absorption.
Who is inhaled insulin for?
The FDA recently updated the label for inhalable insulin Afrezza to address how fast-acting it is, which focuses on improving patient outcomes for those living with diabetes and obesity. It could also benefit patients eating a high-carb meal, those taking many bolus injections, and anyone with a strong dislike of needles.
Some patients find mealtime insulin dosing challenging, and that’s where this faster-acting type of insulin could help. With inhaled insulin, it’s possible to have less early hyperglycemia, and less late hypoglycemia.
Another patient who may want to use inhaled insulin is someone with Type 1 diabetes who has a buildup of scar tissue at their injection sites or a person who wants to take a break from the use of an insulin pump.
The product isn’t yet approved for use in children, although the drug company is working on this for the future.
Combining inhaled insulin and injections
Using inhaled insulin doesn’t mean you’re necessarily free of injections. In many cases, Afrezza users will also be on basal insulin therapy, which is only injectable and would need to be taken separately. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you probably will still need to take some oral medications for diabetes.
There also are some patients who aren’t well-suited for inhaled insulin, such as those who smoke or who have asthma.
Before you use inhaled insulin, you’ll need to take a breathing test that’s called spirometry.
Some research has shown a small decline in lung function over several years in patients using inhaled insulin. However, studies of patients with diabetes who are not using this drug have shown a similar small decline.
Talk with your health care professional and decide if inhaled insulin is right for you.