Since the introduction of insulin therapy 80 years ago, the lives of millions of patients with diabetes have been saved, prolonged and immeasurably improved. However, restoring normal glucose levels in diabetic patients through administering insulin by subcutaneous injection has proved virtually impossible. The consequences for patients are serious complications, including diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy, which tend to result from persistent hyperglycaemia. Maximizing glucose control in diabetic patients requires several daily injections. In an effort to reduce this burden, alternative and less-intrusive routes for the administration of insulin are being explored.