Inhaled Insulin Treats for Needle-Shy Diabetics

People with diabetes who are not fond of needles have a new way of getting insulin.

Afrezza® is a new, rapid-acting inhaled insulin breathed through the lungs to control high blood sugar in adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is taken at the beginning of a meal to help lower blood sugar spikes that can occur after the consumption of food.

“The way that it works is the most similar in terms of how someone’s body (that doesn’t have diabetes) releases insulin,” said Rachel Rocha, ProMedica Pharmacy. “Meaning that it acts quicker than an injection and it’s out of your body quicker as well.”

Rocha said the product is aimed at diabetes patients who may be “needle-phobic.” However, because Afrezza® is not to be used in place of long-acting insulin, patients with type 1 diabetes must still get some insulin injections.

“It’s neat there’s an option,” she said. “It works the quickest. You can literally take it right before you take your first bite.”

Due to Afrezza® being a powder that is inhaled, it may not be used by those with a long-term lung disease such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It is also not available for those who smoke or who quit smoking less than six months ago, as it is unknown whether the newly introduced product is safe and effective for smokers.

“In order to even go on the product, the doctor has to order a spirometry test to test out the lungs to see they’re functioning,” Rocha said.

There are some other limitations to Afrezza®. At the current time, it is only available in 4 or 8 units. If a person requires 6 units of insulin, Afrezza® would not be a good option. It’s also not available to those under 18 years of age.

Because the product is so new and most insurance companies have not yet started covering Afrezza®, Rocha does not know of many patients using it yet. Depending on one’s dosage needs, the prescription may cost a patient between $270-$380 a month without insurance coverage, Rocha said.

However, Afreeza® states patients may save on prescriptions with the Afrezza® Savings Card, which allows for a $0 co-pay for the first prescription, which includes two inhalers and a month’s supply of cartridges. Following prescriptions will cost no more than $30 co-pay per refill, depending on insurance coverage, according to the website.

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