Following approval of Exubera, an oral insulin formulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission, the sales of the new treatment modality is expected to soar in the next couple of months. The drug is a combined effort of three major pharmaceutical companies Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer and Nektar Therapeutics.
The new formulation could eventually save the trouble of daily insulin injections for millions of diabetics worldwide. However, it cannot be viewed as a replacement as it may not be suitable for everyone.
Insulin, secreted by specialized cells of the pancreas plays a vital role in the maintenance of blood sugar levels. Diabetic individuals depend on insulin to maintain a balance. Poor blood sugar control over a prolonged time can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and stroke. In addition, it can impair the normal blood flow and vision.
Although insulin has been sold since 1920s, this new inhaled insulin form (powder that can be breathed inside using a mouthpiece) represents a major milestone in diabetic treatment. It is contraindicated in current smokers or in those who have stopped smoking for less than six months and patients with lung disease.
Pfizer would study the long-term effects of the new drug formulation shortly. Previous studies have established incidence of mild cough as a consequence of Exubera use. It is therefore recommended that all individuals who take the formulation undergo lung evaluation prior to use, which can be extended to every year following administration.
Apart from the above mentioned treatment regimen, the importance of diet, weight reduction and exercise should not be forgotten.