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Afrezza: A Safer Inhaled Insulin?

Updated on September 19, 2015

Introduction

As human beings, we probably have the utmost dislike when it comes to receiving injections whether it is insulin or antibiotic therapy. In today’s technology, experts are able to formulate different medications into different dosage forms. As for insulin, there are limited formulations starting with injectables, pumps and inhalation powder. Prior to 2006, there was limited dosage formulations as well especially injectables and pumps. In 2006, Exubera, an inhaled Insulin, was approved. However, in 2007, it was withdrawn from market because of low sale volume. As of June 30th, 2014, Afrezza, a new inhaled insulin, has been approved.

Insulin Injection

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Use, Method of Administration and Action of Afrezza

Afrezza is a rapidly acting inhaled insulin that has been recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is for adult patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to improve glycemic control for those who may have had inadequate control of blood sugar or as an alternative option for insulin injections. It may be used before each meal or soon after starting meals through the mouth. In terms of usage, a dose of the drug, in a powder form, is placed into a small inhaler which would contain a single dose. It dissolves instantly upon inhalation and delivers insulin immediately. During administration, the insulin level is at its highest concentration around 12 to 20 minutes. When it is absorbed from the cells in the lungs, it enters the blood stream. Human body apparently removes Afrezza more quickly than injected insulin at mealtime. In order words, this suggests that the drug is not retained longer in the body. It also suggests that it should not be the only source of therapy for a diabetic. Of course, there are oral therapies for diabetes that are not insulin.

Afrezza inhaler

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Benefits


Many adult patients who have utilized the inhaled insulin have experienced a reduced HbAlc, a laboratory test to assess blood sugar at 3 months period. In addition, Afrezza has been reported to cause less hypoglycemia, less weight gain and is also an injection-free insulin delivery system. Due to shorter duration of the drug in the body, it is expected that the drug would show less side effects. It may also help promote medication compliance since the fear of initial site injection is not in question.

Side Effects

All medications have good and bad sides. A number of side effects have been reported with Afrezza. Some of these side effects include low blood sugar, throat pain or irritation, cough and possible tightening of chest. Afrezza is expected to carry warning contraindicating its use in asthmatics or patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is also a concern to monitor against lung cancer.

Conclusion

Diabetics have oral therapy, injectable insulin, insulin pump and then, the newest, inhaled insulin, Afrezza, available to them. Afrezza has not yet flooded the market but It is expected that it will soon be out. Safety as we all know is a concern in all readily available medications. Based on the available information, I would predict that a lot of patients would benefit from the drug but the utmost concern is the respiratory issues that could occur in those that use the medication more often than other diabetic therapy.

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