Afrezza: The New Inhaled Insulin

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Several years ago when I was first starting out as an intern in the retail pharmacy setting, Exubera, an inhaled insulin, was collecting dust on our shelf.

The idea of inhaled insulin sounded great, especially for people who had a phobia of using needles for injection. A few years back there weren’t even as many insulin pen options as there are now, yet Exubera failed and was discontinued.

Despite the failure of Exubera back in October of 2007, a new inhaled insulin, Afrezza, has been FDA approved and is now on the market.

What is Afrezza?
Afrezza is a rapid-acting inhaled insulin used to improve sugar control in adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What is rapid-acting insulin?

Rapid-acting insulin is sometimes also referred to as meal time insulin. Rapid-acting insulin onset is within 10 – 30 minutes and peaks at 30 minutes to 3 hours. This means Afrezza is to be used at the beginning of meals.

Are there other rapid-acting insulin’s available?

Yes. Humalog, Novolog, and Apidra are also rapid-acting insulins.

Are there any other inhaled insulins available?

No. Afrezza is currently the only inhaled insulin product approved by the FDA.

When was Afrezza approved?

The FDA approved Afrezza on June 27, 2014. It became available as of February 3, 2015.

In what dosage form and strengths will Afrezza be available?
Afrezza is available to patients as a cartridge in 4 unit and 8 unit strengths.

How is Afrezza used?
Afrezza is to be inhaled at the beginning of a meal, but the dosage is individualized according to each patient.

Are there any reasons you should not use Afrezza?

Yes. Afrezza is contraindicated (should not be used) in patients with breathing problems such as COPD and asthma.

What are the most common side effects of Afrezza?

Some common side effects associated with Afrezza are hypoglycemia, cough, throat pain or irritation, headache, diarrhea, fatigue, and nausea.

Want more information on Afrezza?

Take a look at the manufacturer’s website here.

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