Insulin therapy has been an important part of diabetes treatment. The most common method of delivery is by injection. Through the years, alternative methods have been explored, including delivery via inhalation. This was pioneered by Pfizer through their product, Exubera, which was available in the market from 2006 to 2007.
Afrezza, developed by MannKind Corporation, is a new form of inhaled insulin awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is a fast-acting mealtime insulin that is orally inhaled as a dry powder which is then absorbed in the lungs almost instantly. The product uses a delivery technology called Technosphere which allows for ultra-rapid systemic delivery and absorption of the drug.
It is claimed that its action peaks in about 12 to 15 minutes after inhalation, faster than Exubera which takes about 40 to 60 minutes. The fast-action of Afrezza helps in keeping the after-meal blood sugar level to normal, a goal for people with diabetes, and carries a lower risk of causing hypoglycemia, a condition caused by insulin levels that are higher than required for a meal. This can be especially appealing to people with diabetes that need insulin in every meal.
Although Afrezza looks very promising, it is still not a total replacement for insulin injections in people with diabetes as it only replaces mealtime insulin but not basal insulin. There are some concerns on the possible impact of the drug on the lungs since it is the site of absorption. Clinical trials assessing its effects on people with asthma are reported to be currently ongoing.