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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 11:00 GMT
Diabetes inhaler given approval
Diabetes insulin injection
Many people with diabetes must have regular insulin shots currently
A form of insulin that can be inhaled rather than injected has been approved for people with diabetes.

The drug, Exubera, is designed to offer adults with diabetes an alternative to their daily insulin injections.

Exubera can be used for both Type 1 and 2 diabetes, however some believe it will not replace all the insulin shots that people need.

But despite the European Commission approval, the drug will not be available in the UK until May.

Although this could be even further delayed as NHS advisers NICE have to review the drug on cost effectiveness grounds.

Being able to replace some of the daily insulin injections with an inhaler will be a great breakthrough for some people with diabetes
Simon O'Neill, of Diabetes UK

The inhaled form of insulin can be used to manage blood sugar levels for people with either type of diabetes who need insulin injections before meals. About 800,000 people in the UK manage their condition with daily injections.

However, the drug will not replace the longer-acting injections that people with diabetes need to take once or twice a day, Diabetes UK say. Although manufacturers, Pfizer, have claimed it may replace all injections for those with Type 2.

During clinical trials, researchers found that inhaled insulin generally was as effective as injections in controlling blood sugar levels.

The inhaled insulin is the first non-injected option for insulin therapy since the discovery of the treatment for diabetes in the 1920s.

Diabetes UK said the approval could be one of the "biggest steps forward" since the discovery of insulin.

Simon O'Neill, director of care at the charity, said: "Being able to replace some of the daily insulin injections with an inhaler will be a great breakthrough for some people with diabetes."

And Dr Kate Lloyd, medical director of Pfizer, said she hoped the inhaled insulin would help patients take an "active role in managing" the disease.

Several other firms are also known to be developing inhaled insulin treatments.

09 Feb 99 |  Medical notes


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