FOX43 Focal Point: Medical devices used to manage diabetes

CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA -- Technology used to manage diabetes has advanced so much, even over the past ten years. There are a number of devices available for diabetics to help manage their blood sugars.

You might have heard of a diabetic using injections or even a pump to give insulin. But now there is a new way that is unlike anything else on the market.

Doesn't matter which doctor a diabetic sees, how long they've had diabetes, or even how closely they manage. Any way you slice it, diabetics need insulin. This goes for all type one diabetics, and even some type twos.

"And we have multiple ways of giving it to them," Vanessa Snell, Certified Diabetes Educator at UPMC Pinnacle, said.

Snell explained a number of ways it can be done.

"So we have insulin pens, we have vial and syringes, and we have insulin pumps," Snell said.

The first, and most basic, way of delivering insulin is through a vial and syringe. This is usually the method diabetics use when they are first diagnosed. They can get fancy and use insulin pens that are just pre-loaded syringes.

"They have different types. There is long acting, rapid acting," Snell said. "It's kinda trying to mimic what the pancreas would do if it was making insulin."

The other popular option is insulin pumps. It's basically a little machine that holds insulin and is delivered through a tube to your skin, kind of like an IV. It's worn all the time, but can be taken off for certain circumstances, including showering. There are many brands, including a wireless pump that works with a receiver.

"It will just constantly give a little bit of insulin, just like a pancreas would, except it's just not reading your glucose to do it," Snell said.

But what if you could take insulin without an injection or IV?

"It is inhalable insulin, and you're not unusual in having limited to no information about Afrezza," David Kendall, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President at MannKind Corporation, said.

Based out of California, MannKind is the maker of Afrezza.

"Which we now call the dream boat or whistle," Kendall said.  "As you can see if I make it apparent to you, it is a reusable, portable, inhaler that looks just like a whistle."

It's like an asthma inhaler, but with a powder-like insulin. You chose the dosage, click it down, and activate it. Then take a deep breath. It starts working within 15 minutes.

"What this allows is two very important things," Kendall said. "One is obviously the convenience of this small device, the cartridges which you can carry with you each day. For the average individual taking injected insulin, this would probably save them about a thousand needle sticks a year."

The second thing it does, he said, is work faster than traditional insulin. Injected insulin peaks at about 2 hours, while Afrezza peaks within 35-45 minutes. Which can lead to better control. Diabetics using Afrezza would still have to inject insulin, but only once a day.

"It is truly given in the moment," Kendall said. "You can take more insulin, more often, and do so more safely if done in specific ways."

When it comes to dosing the amount of insulin you need, it's kinda of like a math equation. There are a number of things a diabetic must factor in, including what they're eating, what their current blood sugar is, and whether or not they are exercising, among others. And if not dosed correctly, it can be life threatening.

Afrezza is currently only approved for adults. MannKind is hoping to have the inhalable insulin approved for kids ages 8 to 12 in the U.S. within the next year or so.

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