Drug Facts: Inhaled Insulin
Updated: Apr 27
A unique product on the market currently is inhaled insulin. Yes, insulin that you inhale into your lungs! No injections necessary.
Afrezza is currently the only inhaled insulin on the market, but it’s actually not the first. Exubera was the first FDA approved inhaled insulin in 2006, but it was taken off the market a year later due to poor sales.
Afrezza is a mealtime insulin, AKA bolus insulin, so it’s taken to cover the rise in blood sugars due to meals. This means you would generally use it three times a day, for breakfast lunch and dinner. It comes in 3 different doses – 4, 8 and 12 units.
Inhaled insulin is a great product for people that are afraid of needles. It should be noted though, for all people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes, a basal insulin injection (generally once daily) would still be required. Afrezza has also been shown to cause less hypoglycemia and weight gain compared to injectable bolus insulin, which is obviously great news.
Afrezza is an ultra-rapid-acting insulin, meaning it starts working quickly and is out of your system quickly as well. It has an onset of 12-15 mins, a peak is about 60 minutes and a duration of about 2.5-3 hours. What exactly does that mean? This medication starts working in less than 15 minutes, works the hardest around an hour after taking it and is totally out of your system by 3 hours after inhaling. These are faster times compared to any injectable insulin on the market at this time.
A big downside of Afrezza is that it only comes in 3 different doses. Need 6 units? That’s not an option. Need 16 units? You’re going to have to take 12 units and then reload the cartridge to take another 4. This definitely limits the ability to individualize doses and can be a pain if you need a higher dose since you’ll have to do multiple inhales. This product is not for people with chronic lung problems such as COPD or asthma, or people that currently smoke or have smoked in the last 6 months.
Do you think this product is a good fit for you? Want to know more? Talk to a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and/or other healthcare provider. You can also learn more at the Afrezza website.