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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Inhaled insulin 'within a year'
Insulin injections can be problematic for some
A device which allows people with diabetes to inhale, rather than inject, insulin could be licensed for use within a year, scientists claim.

Tests carried out around the UK and in the US have shown that the device is as effective as conventional injections.

Scientists told the Diabetes UK conference it would offer a choice to the 700,000 people in the UK who currently need to take insulin.

However, they said inhaled insulin would not be suitable for everyone.

The device, which would fit into a handbag, contains a blister pack of insulin in the form of dry powder.

While it will not be suitable for everyone this could make a real difference to the daily lives of many people with diabetes
Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK

To release the powder, the user presses a button and inhales the powder.

People with Type 1 diabetes, who develop the condition as children or young adults, are usually unable to produce any insulin at all.

This means they can often need to inject insulin up to six times a day to boost insulin levels.

Anthony Barnett, professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham, who has been involved in the insulin inhaler research, said the device - which delivers short-acting insulin - could cut the number of injections people with Type 1 diabetes need to just one or two.

The researchers have also looked at people with Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood and can often be controlled with diet and medicines.

They said inhaled insulin appeared to give better blood glucose control than taking tablets.


Inhaled insulin is not currently licensed for use, but licence applications have been made to the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.

If the European regulator gives the go-ahead, the device could be used in the UK.

A separate body, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, would then recommend if it should be approved for use on the NHS.

Professor Barnett said the device could receive its European licence within a year.

He added: "Good blood glucose control is essential to keeping people with diabetes healthy.

"It can sometimes be very difficult trying to maintain that on a daily basis.

"For some people, one of the difficulties can be having to inject insulin up to four times a day.

"Our hope is that inhaled insulin will provide more choice, making it easier for people with diabetes to stay healthy."

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of charity Diabetes UK, added: "Since insulin was discovered in the 1920s, injections have been the only option. That can be difficult for some people.

"Many attempts have been made to come up with new treatments and at last we appear to be close to success.

"While it will not be suitable for everyone, this could make a real difference to the daily lives of many people with diabetes."

In total, around 1.8 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, but it is estimated that a further one million people have the condition but are unaware of it.

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