Sansum Testing Inhalers for Diabetes

Sansum Testing Inhalers for Diabetes

Think of Diabetes and You Might Think of Needles

But patients in need of life-saving insulin might soon be able to do less pricking and more puffing to get it. Researchers at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute are taking part in national trials of an insulin inhaler— much like those prescribed for asthmatics. “The patients are very happy to get rid of their needles,” said Howard Zisser, a scientist at the institute.

The inhalers don’t completely replace injections though. Diabetics taking part in the study must still inject themselves daily with long-acting insulin, but rather than also having to inject after every meal, they use an inhaler to deliver a puff of powdered insulin. Ursula Kindseth, 55, one of the patients who participated for a year in the Sansum study, said she “liked inhaling much better than injection. At first it was a little awkward to inhale in public, like in a restaurant,” she wrote in an e-mail message from Malta, where she now lives. “But nobody seemed to mind or notice, so I stopped worrying about it and just did it.”

Sansum is one of dozens of institutions across the country where the trials are taking place, Dr. Zisser said. The work here is currently focused on treating insulin-dependent (Type 1) diabetes, but an upcoming study will use inhaled insulin to treat Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes. If all goes well, the Food and Drug Administration could approve the use of this type of insulin within five years.

Dr. Zisser said that not only would that mean fewer jabs for diabetics, but it could mean not as many patients suffer serious complications like blindness, heart problems and nerve damage. He said some people with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes complain, “Don’t give me needles!” Subsequently, their blood sugar is in much worse control , “and that’s when the complications start creeping in,” Dr. Zisser added. “If you can get the blood sugar controlled earlier you’re not going to get the complications,”

© April 13, 2004
Santa Barbara News-Press
Article by Anna Davison
News-Press Staff Writer