Insulin Inhaler: New Diabetes Option Before Meals

Nurse has good experience with Afrezza

By:  Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs

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There’s good news for patients who would like an easier way to get their insulin. A new rapid inhaled insulin has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The new drug, called Afrezza®, delivers insulin in the form of a fine powder, and you can inhale it at the start of a meal to help with blood sugar control.

As a nurse and certified diabetes educator who has also lived with diabetes for the past 17 years, I wanted to try this new option. After using it for a few months, I found the inhaled insulin to be effective, easy to use, and a great alternative to an injection when I needed mealtime insulin. It can be used safely with any basal insulin, such as Lantus®, Levemir® or Toujeo®. Anyone who has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can benefit from this treatment option.

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Inhaler benefits

Here are some of the benefits of the inhaled insulin:

  • It decreases risk for hypoglycemia. The onset time is 12 to 15 minutes and it is totally out of your system within 180 minutes.
  • It is painless, convenient and effective. Once inhaled, the insulin gets released into the body through your lungs and released into tiny airways that help move the insulin into the bloodstream quickly.
  • Color coding makes the dosages easy to identify. The color coding of the blisters are blue for four units, green for eight units and yellow for 12 units of insulin. This color coding decreases the possibility of errors.
  • The blister and the inhaling device are small and compact. Both can easily fit into a small purse or pant pocket.
  • The inhaling device is included with the monthly prescription. The device is changed every two weeks and needs no special care. Simply place the cap back on after use.
  • It is easy to use. To properly use the inhaling unit, you just place the prescribed blister containing a powder form of insulin into the device. Breathe out, place the device in your mouth and take in a deep breath slowly over the course of three to five seconds. Then breathe normally.

Things to remember

This insulin works best when taken at the start of a meal. The powder may cause a little cough, but drinking a few sips of water afterwards helps relieve this problem. As with any insulin, you should monitor your blood glucose regularly for trending and dose titration purposes while on this medication. Be sure to have regular follow-up visits and complete needed lab work for your prescribing physician. This is important to keep you on track and ensure that the medication is working effectively.

Hypoglycemia is the most common adverse reaction for any insulin, including Afrezza.

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This medication is not recommended for those with chronic lung problems or smokers. Prior to starting Afrezza, a physical exam and a special pulmonary function test is needed to identify any potential lung disease. A follow-up lung test is needed at six months and yearly while on this medication.

You will want to talk with your doctor to decide if Afrezza is the right mealtime insulin for you.

Afrezza® is a registered trademark of the MannKind Corporation.

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