Miami, FL (June 27, 2005) — Scientists at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine have announced that inhaled insulin works just as well at controlling blood sugar levels as injected insulin, suggesting that daily pre-meal insulin injections may soon be a thing of the past for patients with type 1 diabetes. The study’s findings are published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
In the six-month study, 328 patients with type 1 diabetes received their regular twice-daily injections of long-acting insulin, and were randomized to receive either inhaled insulin before each meal, or subcutaneous regular insulin before each meal.
“This research shows that inhaled insulin before meals works exactly the same as injected insulin before meals, even in people who do not make any insulin on their own,” said Jay Skyler, M.D., professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute at the Miller School of Medicine, lead investigator and author of the study.
“The lungs are an ideal target for delivery of a substance like insulin,” said Dr. Skyler. “Think of it this way, the surface area of the lungs is about the same as a tennis court, and it is only one cell in thickness, enabling the insulin to get where it needs to go very quickly.”
It’s estimated that of the 18 million Americans who have diabetes, more than one million are diagnosed with the autoimmune form of the disease, or type 1 diabetes. In type 1 the body’s cells that produce insulin have been destroyed, and daily insulin injections are needed to sustain life. Researchers have long been looking for an alternative to insulin therapy by injection, which greatly impacts a patient’s quality of life .
In order for patients with type 1 diabetes to achieve control of blood sugar levels (which helps minimize but not prevent the longterm complications of the disease), they must adhere to a strict regimen of insulin injections, particularly around mealtime. Many patients often reject multiple injections because of the discomfort, burden and inconvenience, so an effective alternative to the injections would not only be welcomed by these patients, but would likely result in better patient compliance and lower public health care costs.
The proof-of-concept study that inhaled insulin was a viable treatment option was published in the February 3, 2001, issue of the prestigious journal The Lancet by Dr. Skyler and colleagues. “This study, however, is the best demonstration to date that inhaled insulin can be substituted for pre-meal insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes,” Dr. Skyler said. “It could mean a significant improvement in quality of life for individuals currently living with the disease.”
The inhaled insulin used in this study – Exubera – is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration, and could be approved by the end of the year.
Jeanne Antol Krull