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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 00:35 GMT
Inhalers for diabetics
Diabetic pen and insulin
Inhaled insulin could be the way forward for diabetes
Meal time injections for diabetics could soon become a thing of the past.

Scientists are hoping that diabetic patients might soon be able to inhale their daily doses of insulin, cutting out the need for jabs before meals.

Patient groups and doctors have welcomed the break through for Type-1 diabetes, but say much more research is needed before an inhaled version of insulin goes on the market.

Bill Hartnett, of Diabetes UK, said diabetics would welcome the chance to live normal lives without having to inject their insulin.

"Diabetes UK is watching the development of inhalable insulin with great interest.

"The prospect of removing the need for daily insulin injections would mean a lot to many people with diabetes.

Trial results

"The results of this trial are very promising but more work needs to be done before we know whether this type of insulin can provide the diabetes control needed to reduce the risk of serious complications such as heart disease and blindness," he said.

The American study, which is published in The Lancet, found that patients using the inhalers could cut out the need of an insulin jab before meals.

For people trapped within this subculture the needle is not just an irksome necessity, but a symbol of their bondage to an invisible parasite.

Professor Edwin Gale

Patients inhaled their insulin three times a day and had a single injection just before bed.

The researchers found that the inhalers proved very popular with patients.

"Patients often reject multiple-injection programmes as inconvenient and burdensome.

"Thus, a method of providing insulin without the need for injections has long been sought as a goal in drug delivery," said the report authors from the University of Miami and nine other research centres.

But Professor Edwin Gale, from the diabetic medicine division of medicine at the University of Bristol, said that although the research is promising that the sample group of 73 patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus was too small.

Normal lifestyle

He said inhalers could provide a hope for diabetics and a promise of a more normal life style.

"Diabetes is intangible yet all-pervasive, and alters the whole context within which an individual lives his or her life.

"It changes the self-image, the social relations, the daily existence, the hopes and dreams of those who are affected.

Diabetes facts
Type 1 diabetes produces no insulin and depends on daily injections
Type 2, or adult onset diabetes can be controlled by diet, exercise and drugs
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10-25 per cent of the 130 million sufferers worldwide

"For people trapped within this subculture the needle is not just an irksome necessity, but a symbol of their bondage to an invisible parasite.

"The medical community should therefore join with them in celebrating this small step forward in the knowledge that when the hype subsides the hope will remain."

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