Inhaled insulin safe, effective over long term

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that inhaled insulin is safe to use and effective for up to 2 years in people with type 1 diabetes.

There has been concern that inhaled insulin might cause a deterioration in lung function. Dr. Jay S. Skyler from the University of Miami and colleagues looked into this, and other issues, in a study involving 582 adult patients with type 1 diabetes. They were randomly assigned to inhaled insulin or injected insulin for a 2-year period.

The researchers report in the medical journal Diabetes Care that there were declines in lung function in both groups, but the declines were consistently larger in the group treated with inhaled insulin.

However, in both groups, lung function dropped by less than 2 percent, and this occurred within 3 months of starting treatment and did not deteriorate further for up to 2 years.

Side effects were about the same with both treatments, the report indicates, but the incidence of cough was higher among those treated with inhaled insulin (38 percent) than among those treated with injected insulin (13 percent).

Both groups kept their blood sugar levels under control, and the overall occurrence of too-low blood sugar was similar with both treatments. Episodes of seriously low blood sugar levels, however, were less common with inhaled insulin treatment, as was weight gain.

“Inhaled insulin is effective (it works) and does not have major safety issues associated with it (at least for 2 years),” Skyler concluded in comments to Reuters Health

“Many additional studies are underway, including longer duration for safety and comparisons with rapid-acting insulin analogs,” he added.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, March 2007.