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Inhaled insulin is emerging as a possible alternative to injected insulin for people with diabetes.
While insulin injections enable diabetics to eat and live relatively normally, there are disadvantages to this method of treatment, with multiple injections often needed for tight control. Additionally, the injected insulin cannot be absorbed into the system as quickly as naturally produced insulin.
Inhaled insulin may be able to replace multiple injections of short-acting insulin. In a recent review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers evaluated the beneficial and adverse effects, and patient acceptability of inhaled insulin.
Researchers found that the glycemic control provided by a combination of inhaled insulin and once-daily injected insulin was comparable to that provided by the standard multiple injections. They also found that patient satisfaction was significantly improved, with patients reporting increased convenience and ease of use.
However, there were problems with the design of the trials, and researchers were cautious with their conclusions. Dr. Norman Waugh stated, "The amount of the insulin which has to be inhaled is greater than by injection, so there are doubts over cost-effectiveness. We also don't know whether there would be long-term lung side effects." He concluded, "More data are needed before inhaled insulin could become standard treatment" (Royle P, Waugh N, McAuley L, et al., Inhaled insulin in diabetes mellitus (Cochrane Review). The Cochrane Library, 2003, Issue 3). This article was prepared by Diabetes Week editors from staff and other reports.
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