Diabetes sufferers may soon be able to inhale life-saving drugs rather than having to give themselves several daily injections, according to published research.
An American study of a new inhaler device for insulin found that it worked as well as the traditional method of injections.
The findings could offer hope to diabetes sufferers who have to go through the discomfort and inconvenience of two or three daily jabs to maintain their blood glucose levels.
The number of diabetes sufferers in Africa remains uncertain, although and IDF estimate from 2000 put the figure at 7.5 million diabetic adults between 20 and 79 years of age. It is thought that this figure is now much larger.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) and the IDF (International Diabetes Federation) estimate that the diabetes population will double over the next twenty five years.
Half a million diabetics have to give themselves daily injections of insulin to maintain their glucose levels every day.
Diabetes sufferers cannot convert the glucose in their blood into energy because the hormone insulin is either not produced or does not work properly.
Sufferers say the gruelling regime affects their everyday life, social relations and even their own self-image.
Insulin inhalers have been tried from as early as 1925, but the devices have not been effective enough in getting the insulin into the body’s system.
Now a US company has developed an inhaler which uses a new dry-powder form of insulin.
Researchers from the University of Miami studied 73 patients with insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes, the most severe form of the illness.
Half were given the new inhaler to use before meals – when injections are normally administered – while the others stuck with their normal round of daily jabs.
The findings, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that the inhaler worked as well as the needle in maintaining blood glucose levels and preventing sufferers from falling into potentially-fatal diabetic comas.
This is great news for diabetics, but people should remember there are still further trials to be done. It will still be several years before an inhaler of this kind could become available.