Diabetes Insulin Inhaled

If you’re a diabetic who needs insulin injections, you’ve probably wished for a way to take your insulin without needles. Scientists are working on innovative types of insulin delivery to make that hope a reality. New inhaled insulin may soon be available as a way to deliver insulin without injections.

Why Inhaled Insulin?

Researchers are investigating many options for insulin delivery and find that certain sites present unique challenges and advantages:

  • Insulin pills: Types of insulin in pill form would certainly be the most convenient insulin delivery method. Unfortunately, digestive acids and enzymes easily destroy insulin. Additionally, even if the insulin remained intact, a method for insulin transportation through the intestinal membranes would need to be established.
  • Nasal delivery: The challenge of nasal delivery is poor insulin transportation across the nasal membranes. Types of insulin given through the nose would require either very large amounts of insulin, or a chemical to aid insulin transportation.

Diabetes inhaled insulin allows absorption into the bloodstream across the lungs’ large surface area, through the alveolar walls of the lungs. Unlike injected insulin, inhaled insulin generally must first be made into a powder form. New inhaled insulin then enters the bloodstream through use of an inhaler, very much like those used to treat asthma. Some scientists consider this one of the most promising alternative approaches to insulin delivery.

Inhaled Insulin: FDA Approval

The public has already had a brief glimpse at inhaled insulin. FDA approval of Exubera, the first inhaled insulin, took place in September 2006. By 2007, however, Pfizer, Exubera’s manufacturer, took this new inhaled insulin off the market because it had not caught on with doctors or patients. Side effects of Exubera included:

  • Cough
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat.

The reputation of this diabetes inhaled insulin was further marred in 2008, when the FDA stated that Exubera might be linked to lung cancer and lung toxicities.

New Inhaled Insulin and the Future

Scientists are working toward developing safe and effective inhaled insulin products, with FDA approval expected in the very near future.

MannKind Corporation submitted its rapid-acting mealtime inhaled insulin to the FDA in 2009, and final approval could come at any time. MannKind hopes to team up with a partner to market its product globally when it becomes available. Other companies working on diabetes inhaled insulin products include:

  • Eli Lilly: Eli Lilly’s inhaled insulin system is in phase III clinical testing for treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  • Novo Nordisk: Also in phase III testing, Novo Nordisk’s device uses strips of liquid insulin, so that doses can be adjusted to the nearest unit.


Diabetes Service. (n.d.). Will inhaled insulin really take your breath away? Retrieved April 10, 2010, from http://www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_treatments/insulin_inhaled.php.

Thomson Reuters. (2010). MannKind expects FDA to approve inhaled insulin. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1221038220100113.