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An Overview of Inhaled Insulin

An introduction to the only inhalable insulin option.

 

Written And Reviewed By: ADCES clinical staff

March 16, 2023

Overview

There are a number of insulin delivery devices available to insulin users. Most are familiar with syringes, pens and pumps but Inhaled insulin is a relatively new treatment option for people with diabetes. Given recent articles and promotion of this product, as healthcare professionals you may get questions from patients about inhaled insulin and the benefits of choosing this option. In this article, we'll answer some frequently asked questions about inhaled insulin and provide insights into its advantages and disadvantages. 

 

First off, what is inhaled insulin?

Inhaled insulin is a form of insulin that’s inhaled through the mouth and delivered into the lungs via an inhaler device with cartridges that contain dry powder insulin. It's administered similarly to asthma medication via oral inhalation.

The inhaled insulin is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs to quickly regulate blood sugar levels. Inhaled insulin is approved to treat both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

 

What are the potential benefits of inhaled insulin?

The key advantages some users of inhaled insulin mention compared to traditional insulin injections include:

Convenience: Inhaled insulin is easy to use and requires no needles or syringes. It can be administered discreetly, and does not require the same level of preparation as insulin injections.

Faster Acting: Inhaled insulin is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which means it starts working faster than injectable insulin. According to the manufacturer, “it passes from your lungs to your bloodstream in less than a minute, and it can start reducing blood sugar levels within about 12 minutes”. This can be very beneficial for people who need to control their blood sugar levels quickly, such as after meals and/or those who are not consistent with pre-bolusing.

Inhaled insulin also leaves the body quickly, within 1.5–3 hours, depending on the dose. This trait results in less of a chance of stacking of insulin occurring and is useful for people who are physically active.  

More Comfortable: Needles aren't for everyone. Many people with diabetes find injections to be uncomfortable or painful, which can make it difficult to manage their diabetes. Inhaled insulin can improve their quality of life by eliminating the need for injections.

Inhaled insulin might also be an easier to administer option for individuals with certain types of disabilities.

 

What are potential disadvantages of inhaled insulin?

Limited Brand Options: Currently, there is only one type of inhaled insulin available on the market, Afrezza. This means that people with diabetes may not have the same level of choice and flexibility as they do with injectable insulin.

Limited Dosing Options: Unlike other options, inhalable insulins come in specific doses. Currently, inhalable insulin is available in 4-, 8- and 12-unit color-coded cartridges. If needed, the user can mix and match cartridges to meet their prescribed dose.

Cost: Inhaled insulin may  be more expensive than injectable insulin, which can be a barrier for some people. Insurance coverage may vary, so it's important to check with your insurance provider to see if inhaled insulin is covered.

However, there are typically manufacturer provided affordability programs available that can lower the costs for individuals. At the time of publishing this article, with the Afrezza Savings Card, eligible commercially insured patients may pay as little as $35 per month (exceptions apply, of course). See danatech's Afrezza product page for current offers.

Side Effects: Like all insulins, there might be side effects. Inhaled insulin can cause side effects such as hypoglycemia, coughing, sore throat, and shortness of breath. These last three side effects are generally mild, but they can be more severe in some people.

 

Who is a candidate for inhaled insulin?

Many factors go into choosing the right insulin delivery device for the individual. Inhaled insulin may be a good option for people who:

  • Are injection or needle averse
  • Want a more convenient, less invasive insulin delivery method
  • Want to control their blood sugar levels quickly after meals
  • Are looking for an insulin to use around physical activity
  • Have type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Are 18 or older (inhaled insulin it not yet approved for juvenile use)

Important to note, inhaled insulin is not recommended for people who smoke or have lung problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). See the Afrezza website for more details.

 

What are the primary components of this device?

Inhalers: Each package of Afrezza comes with two inhalers. Each inhaler may be used for up to 15 days. After 15 days of use the inhaler must be discarded and replaced with a new inhaler.

Insulin Cartridges: Cartridges containing Afrezza are sealed in foil.

BluHale Pro: an accessory device that mounts onto the inhaler to facilitate patient training on proper inhalation technique and handling. The BluHale app is designed to be used with the BluHale PRO device by healthcare professionals and is available for both Android and IOS devices.

 

As always, insulin delivery selection is about the person and their unique needs and circumstances.

Inhaled insulin is a promising treatment option for some people with diabetes. It offers several advantages over traditional insulin delivery methods, including convenience and faster action. However, like most delivery devices, there are also some things to be aware of prior to recommending.

Ultimately, whether or not inhaled insulin is the right choice for an individual will depend on their specific needs and circumstances. For more information and the most recent details, visit Afrezza's website.

 



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DISCLAIMERS:

This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit the ADCES finder tool.

ADCES and danatech curate product specifics and periodically review them for accuracy and relevance. As a result, the information may or may not be the most recent. We recommend visiting the manufacturer's website for the latest details if you have any questions.