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Innovation

For diabetics, an insulin inhaler that does away with needles

A new handheld device may let diabetics inhale a dose of insulin instead of using a needle to control blood sugar levels.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

A new handheld device may let diabetics inhale a dose of insulin instead of using a needle to control blood sugar levels.

Valencia, Calif.-based drug company MannKind Corporation have developed a small inhaler and insulin powder that can be inhaled into the lungs. The power, named Afresa, dissolves in the lugs and travels through the bloodstream, reports the New York Times.

Taking insulin helps Type 1 diabetics control their blood sugar to avoid serious health complications, including kidney failure, heart problems, blindness and damage to the nervous system.

The company is awaiting approval for the product by the Food and Drug Administration.

While inhaled insulin is not a new development -- Pfizer introduced it in 2006 in a product called Exubera -- the inhaler was large and difficult to manipulate, and the product was removed from the market less than two years after FDA approval.

But MannKind's inhaler is smaller: the size of a fist. Better still, the version being used in clinical trials is the size of a whistle (see image, above). That means diabetics can carry the inhaler around with them without burden.

The inhaler uses cartridges of prepackaged insulin doses. By turning the mouthpiece and breathing, patients release the insulin -- no compressed gas or electricity needed.

The question is whether patients' lungs -- fragile in nature -- can handle insulin exposure over a lifetime. Another question is whether a diabetic can reliably take the same dose of insulin each time, since breathing deliveries can be variable in nature.

Still, if you are or know a Type 1 diabetic, you'll know that any development that does away with needles is hardly a novelty.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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