The new inhaled insulin, Afrezza, has been launched by Sanofi. The inhaled insulin is delivered by a small inhaler that is approximately the size of a referee’s whistle.

Afrezza can be taken by people with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes on a basal-bolus insulin regimen. The insulin, which comes in cartridges of powdered insulin, represents an alternative way of taking insulin that does not involve injections. In addition to not requiring needles, another advantage of Arezza is that it is very quick acting and quicker than taking other meal time (bolus) insulin.

Ultra-rapid insulin

Whereas rapid acting insulin injections hit peak activity within a 30-90 minute period after injecting, Afrezza’s peak activity occurs within 12-15 minutes after being inhaled. This new ultra-rapid acting insulin therefore has benefits in reducing high blood glucose levels following meals.

The inhaled insulin is only for meal time (bolus) use and therefore injections of long acting (basal) insulin will still be required. However, for those that struggle with giving injections, the chance to inhale doses will help make diabetes management less stressful.

The downsides are that Afrezza will be around twice as expensive as injectable insulin, according to initial prices, and that the insulin should not be taken by people who smoke or by those who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).