Insulin was discovered in 1921 and it was not until 1982 when the first commercially available biosynthetic human insulin was sold. For many years insulin was self-administered from a vial. Patients would use a 28 to 31 gauge needle to place on a syringe and draw up a designated amount of insulin. Insulin would then be injected into their abdomen, upper arm, buttocks, hip, or thigh. They would discard the needle after use. By 1985, the insulin pen was created and patients would insert a 4-12.7mm pen needle on the pen and dial up the correct amount of insulin to be given in their abdomen. A needle was still needed but the vehicle insulin came in was more user-friendly, easier to handle, and more convenient. However, it did not solve the problem for patients who sought an option other than using needles.
Insulin-dependent diabetics require the use of insulin to manage their blood sugar levels. After eating a meal, blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas then produces insulin which allows cells to absorb glucose for energy. The energy is either used immediately or stored in the liver. If the pancreas is unable to produce insulin as in Type I diabetes or the cells producing insulin burn out as in Type II diabetes, exogenous insulin must be given to prevent high blood sugar levels.
The only rapid-acting inhaled insulin, Afrezza, has given insulin-dependent diabetics another option to injections. It allows easy access and administration of the medicine several times a day as needed. Patients would use one of three color-coded strengths and open the mouthpiece to the vertical position and insert the cartridge. The patient would close the mouthpiece, remove the mouthpiece cover and after full exhalation, seal their lips tight around the device and inhale.
Type I and Type II diabetics, who prefer less invasive means of insulin administration and who do not have any contraindications to inhaled medications, now have another option.