FDA Approves Alternative Way of Taking Insulin - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

FDA Approves Alternative Way of Taking Insulin

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Diabetics who are insulin-dependent face many challenges. One of the most difficult is using a needle everyday to inject themselves. Some patients find it difficult to get used to.

Now, an alternative way of taking insulin has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Eye on Health team asked a local specialist about the breakthrough, Exubera.

The insulin delivery product, Exubera, enables diabetics to get their insulin by inhaling it. Las Vegas endocrinologist Fred Toffel says the nature of insulin has made this advancement possible though difficult to develop.

He explained, "The inhaled insulin is in the native powder form. So we're actually inhaling powder. A very fine particle of powder. But a powder itself to deposit in the lungs."

A blister with the powdered insulin is inserted into the inhaler. A lever with a button sends an insulin cloud into the chamber. You breathe in normally, allowing the insulin into the lungs -- where it's rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

The need for a specialized form of insulin, coupled with other factors, makes Exubera more expensive than standard injection methods.

"This product will probably be the most costly insulin because you have to have a special delivery device to use it. And it has been recently developed and costs have gone up. So there's definitely going to be an increase expense," Toffel warned.

Patients with lung disease or those who currently smoke are strongly discouraged from using this device.

"If a patient starts smoking again once they start using this product, they must stop the product and use another form of therapy. I feel, obviously, smoking is not a good thing for anyone with diabetes to use," Dr. Toffel added, "...but if you want to use inhaled insulin, another reason to quit."

Studies of the new device indicate that it works equally well for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

E-mail your questions to Anchor Paula Francis or Medical Producer Rick Andrews.

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