Inhalable insulin provides alternative to needles for millions living with diabetes

Posted at 1:13 PM, Jul 17, 2018

Millions of people who have diabetes rely on insulin shots. Now, some are switching to insulin you can inhale. One man The NOW spoke with says it has changed his routine.

Greg Straub says it feels good to walk into his architecture firm, knowing all he'll have to worry about is work and not his blood sugar levels.

"When my sugars would get really high and I had to do insulin but I couldn't do it, my anxiety level would be through the roof," Straub says.

Straub was diagnosed with diabetes at 25, meaning a life of insulin shots.

"It was pretty traumatic for me, because I have a severe needle phobia."

That phobia meant often he just wouldn't take his insulin.

"My sugars were high," Straub expresses. 

But that changed when he starting using Afrezza, an insulin Straub can inhale.

"Pull the cap off," Straub demonstrates. "This is the mouth piece and then...and that's it."

Dr. Leonard Zemel, an endocrinologist, says there are at least 25 million people--most of whom are type 2 patients--living with diabetes in the U.S. 

"Of those, a good number, sometimes reaching up to 50 percent, of those need insulin," Dr. Zemel says.

Dr. Zemel says with the number of people relying on insulin to manage diabetes, it's important it be easy to use. He says Afrezza provides another option in addition to traditional needles, and in turn, potentially better patient care.

"So the ability to inhale insulin and use the large surface area of the lung is another way to really ensure that you're not using the same site over and over again, which can become undependable over time," Dr. Zemel says.

Inhalable insulin costs about the same as traditional insulin, but some experts have expressed concerns about the long-term effects of inhalable insulin on the lungs. But for Straub, he's happy with the effect it's having on his life right now.

"This is giving me a level of normalcy compared with everybody else that I didn't have before," Straub says.