Treating diabetes with aerosolized insulin

Chest. 2001 Sep;120(3 Suppl):99S-106S. doi: 10.1378/chest.120.3_suppl.99s.


Because of the pain, inconvenience, and disruption of lifestyle associated with the injection of insulin, many patients with diabetes are noncompliant in terms of treatment regimens that require daily multiple injections. To eliminate the pain and to improve treatment outcome, there has been increasing interest in the development of aerosolized insulin to replace subcutaneously (SC) delivered formulations. Recent studies in human volunteers have shown that when aerosolized insulin is effectively delivered to the alveolar region of the lung, absorption rates and decreases in glucose levels are similar to those achieved with SC-delivered insulin during the fasting state. Other human trials have shown that inhaled insulin also effectively controls postprandial glucose levels. Aerosolized insulin is well-tolerated, and there is no evidence of irritation, hypoglycemia, or changes in pulmonary function when administered over short periods. At present, limitations in the delivery device result in less efficient administration of insulin aerosol compared to SC dosing. However, new devices and different formulations of insulin, which are currently under development, should improve the efficiency. It is likely that the treatment of diabetes with aerosolized insulin will provide an effective alternative means for controlling plasma glucose levels in diabetic individuals. Aerosolized insulin also will serve as a developmental model for this route of administration for a number of other therapeutic peptides that are currently administered by injection only.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Biological Availability
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Aerosols
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin