Millions of patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes may soon get some of their insulin without injections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new inhaled insulin medication for adults, following successful clinical trials.

Afrezza delivers rapid-acting insulin that is used to decrease after-meal blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It uses a drug-delivery system called technosphere, where human insulin is placed into microscopic particles that are small enough to be inhaled.

Studies have shown that the inhalant may help to lower HbA1c levels, help control fasting blood glucose levels, and decrease the risk of hypoglycemia.

Afrezza is for use within 20 minutes of beginning a meal. It does not replace long-acting insulin, which must also be used in type 1 patients according to the FDA. It is not recommended for smokers, patients with chronic lung disease such as COPD or asthma, or to treat a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

The inhaled insulin is expected to be available in early 2015. Like any new drug, it will be years before Afrezza’s long-term safety can be established. The FDA has ordered additional studies to evaluate the drug’s possible risk of lung cancer, and to determine whether it should also be approved to treat children.

To learn more about insulin:
Know Your Insulin Options
Insulin Therapy in Early Type 2 Diabetes
Oops! Insulin Errors Unveiled