Diabetes patients get their insulin in a variety of ways. Options include multiple daily injections and insulin pumps. Each of these methods involves a needle stick. New insulin delivery methods promise needle-free insulin delivery.
There’s an appealing new way of delivering insulin that’s in the stages of early research – insulin patches. The patch promises to deliver insulin through the skin similar to nicotine patches or patches for pain relief. The insulin would be delivered needle-free.
If successful, they would offer opportunities for people on insulin therapy to take it without needing to put needles or infusion sets into the body.
How Would The Insulin Patch Work?
Each patch would contain a set dose of insulin that is absorbed slowly through the skin. The insulin travels into the blood stream over a number of hours. Some of the insulin patches were developed to release insulin quickly. This feature addresses spikes in blood sugar following food intake (bolus insulin patches). Other patches have been developed to counterbalance the progressive release of glucose over the course of the day by the liver (basal insulin patches).
Technology Challenges in Insulin Patch Development
In order for insulin to pass through the skin in a controlled and consistent way, insulin patches require additional agents be added. These agents help prevent blood glucose levels from going too high or too low. A number of manufacturers are developing insulin patch options and conducting clinical trials. Early results are promising as being a feasible form of future treatment.
Inhaled Insulin – Another Delivery Method
Another another alternative insulin delivery method is inhaled insulin. The FDA approved inhaled insulin in 2014. Use by patients under the age of 18 is still not approved. Inhaled insulin can be used to manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The insulin is in a powder format that is quickly absorbed after you inhale.
Some patients use inhaled insulin along with traditional injections. This regimen offers convenience and helps blood sugar management after eating and throughout their day. Additional versions of inhaled insulin are in development from a number of manufacturers.
Insulin basics from the American Diabetes Association