The world’s first inhaled insulin, called Exubera, has hit the US market and according to doctors here, Indian patients are clamouring to volunteer for drug trials. Apart from Pfizer, Elli Lilly is conducting trials to test the inhaled form of insulin on the Indian population.
“Like all Pfizer products, Exubera is being reviewed for the Indian market but there are no definite plans as of today about when it would be introduced here,” said a Pfizer India spokesperson. The market buzz is that it will hit the Indian market within two years.
The inhaler doesn’t mean everyone on insulin injections can now switch to the more convenient and less painful inhaled form. “Exubera has been approved for the treatment of adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes which makes the inhaler a replacement for short-acting insulin only. It will have to be used in addition to long or intermediate acting injectable insulin,” says Dr Anoop Misra, director and head, Department of Diabetes and Metabolism, Fortis Group of Hospitals.
So, people who have been taking two or more Insulin injections a day — short-acting ones besides a long-acting one to control the 24-hour basal supply of insulin — can now inhale insulin while continuing to take the one long-acting injection daily.
Of 35 million diabetics in India, two per cent have type-1 diabetes, in which insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Such people need to inject insulin before meals.
“Apart from the roughly three per cent people with diabetes who need insulin injections, the inhaler is expected to help those who are reluctant to start or intensify treatment because of fear of injections,” says Dr Ambrish Mithal of Apollo Hospitals.