Some 16 million Americans have diabetes, which is implicated in an array of potentially life-threatening conditions ranging from kidney failure to blindness to amputations, even to heart disease.
Now, newer technology is showing promise in making the disease easier to control and manage, too.
Chris Goodrich, who has type 1 diabetes, is part of a nationwide clinical trial of an insulin inhaler, an easier way to control his blood sugar levels. It has helped Chris, 30, cut in half the number of insulin shots he takes each day.
The inhaler replaces short-acting insulin injections that patients generally take before meals. But patients still have to take longer-acting insulin injections between once and twice a day.
Still, Dr. Kenneth Hershon, who is helping conduct the study, maintains reducing injections means less needle phobia and better disease management.
"What will happen is there will be more of a willingness that every time you eat, you'll be able to take some insulin and I think that we'll have better control," he says.
Dr. Hershon believes as many as half of all diabetics do not inject themselves as regularly as they should and those who do, do not enjoy the regimen.
Former Mets first baseman, Ed Kranepool, helped lead the "Amazin's" to World Series victory in 1969, but 1 year after retirement, he acquired a new and more challenging opponent: type 2 diabetes.
"You have to carry syringes around and all your medications and of course you're always conscious of the fact that you have to take these injections in public," he says.
But with the inhaler, Kranepool no longer retreats to a restroom. Much like an asthmatic, he just pulls out his inhaler, loads the insulin pellets in the chamber, and breathes in the medicine. It is cleaner, it is easier, and it is painless.
Other than some upper respiratory infections, doctors have seen few side effects with the inhaler. But because the medicine is breathed in, not injected, more insulin is used, leading to waste and possibly raising the cost of use.
Then there's the size, which is considerable larger than a syringe.
"That little inconvenience is certainly nothing compared to having to inject yourself and bring in your insulin," Kranepool says. "So this has obviously been a godsend for all of us and we look forward to it being tested positively."
The makers of the insulin inhaler expect to submit data to the Food and Drug Administration this year. If approved, it could be on the market within the next 12 to 18 months.
In the meantime, the FDA has approved a new once-a-day, long-lasting insulin shot called Lantus.
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