PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Could insulin that you inhale, instead of inject be a game-changer for diabetics?

For some people with diabetes, injecting insulin is the only way to keep their blood sugars under control.

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What if there was another way?

“When you inhale something, it gets in the body very quickly, and works very quickly, and then goes away quickly,” Dr. Wayne Evron, a diabetes specialist at St. Clair Hospital, said.

Inhaled insulin is a quicker, easier way to get the medicine into your body. People get less of a spike in blood sugar after eating.

Inhaled insulin came about six years ago, and has undergone some refinement. The initial versions were linked to a decrease in lung function at six months, and had to be taken off the market. Even with the current version, doctors have to watch carefully how well the lungs work.

“Even now, any inhaled insulin, you still have to make sure they don’t have COPD or any other lung problem. And, you still have to measure lung function before and during. So, that’s a deterrent a little bit to doctors,” Dr. Evron said.

The device looks like an inhaler. You insert capsules of insulin in different doses, depending on your needs based on blood sugar readings.

“There are some preparations you have to do. You have to put a capsule in the bottle, you have to measure it right, not that you don’t have to measure insulin, but it’s a little more involved,” Dr. Evron said. “The advantage, I guess is that people don’t like to take shots.”

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It tends to be more popular with his younger, more tech savvy patients. But even so, it isn’t for most of them.

“We live in Pittsburgh. And, there’s a lot of COPD both from smoking as well as pollutants,” Dr. Evron said.

It’s also about double the cost of injectable insulin.

“Very few insurances are paying for it now. Because it’s very expensive,” Dr. Evron said.

There are a few case reports of cancer.

“It’s irritating. Insulin is a growth hormone. So, when you put insulin in the lung, there’s always that fear that you get growth of lung tissue as well,” Dr. Evron said.

It also may not work well in the long run.

“It’s in a foreign place. So, the body attacks it. So, there was some worry about anti-insulin antibodies forming from this. So yes, the question is this could become less effective with time?” Dr. Evron said.

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