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Researchers Finding New Ways To Administer Insulin

June 26, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Researchers reported progress Wednesday in finding ways to administer insulin through pills, drinks or nose spray to help diabetics control their blood-sugar levels more easily and take fewer shots.

While freedom from shots is still thought to be a long way off, researchers on separate projects in Israel, France and England said the experimental insulin treatments may mimic the body’s functions more closely than injections.

″Diabetes therapy would be far more convenient if people could eliminate or reduce the number of insulin injections needed to control their disease,″ said Dr. Harold Rifkin, chairman of the International Diabetes Federation Congress. Results of the research were presented to the congress, which is meeting this week in Washington.

An estimated 120 million people worldwide, including 14 million Americans, have diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly respond to insulin. The resulting high blood sugar can severely damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

People with the most serious form of diabetes must take one to four insulin injections daily.

Researchers at the Diabetes Research Laboratory in Oxford, England, reported they have developed a nasal spray that appears to deliver insulin without irritating the nose, which had been a problem in previous studies.

The 10 study participants continued to one daily injection of long-acting insulin, but the spray replaced the multiple shots of short-acting insulin usually taken before meals.

Dr. Rury Holman said the nasal spray appears to provide a quicker, more predictable impact than insulin injections and reduces the need for diabetics to eat snacks to offset the drawn-out effects from injections.

He said study participants have been ″delighted″ with the results.

″So far most participants have found that they do not need the between- meal snacks often required by the extended impact of injected insulin, thus making their diet and social life considerably easier to manage,″ Holman said.

Holman said a larger clinical trial is under way but commercial marketing of the spray is at least three to five years away.

Researchers in Israel and France, meanwhile, reported on efforts to develop insulin that could be taken in a pill or as a drink. The challenge is develop an oral insulin that is not broken down in the stomach or intestines and that is easily absorbed into the bloodstream.

Dr. Ehud Ziv, of Hebrew University Medical School, reported success with administering a single dose of insulin in a drink or a capsule to five dogs and 20 humans. Israeli researchers plan further tests with multiple doses and perhaps clinical trials later this year.

Dr. Christiane Damge, director of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Strasbourg, France, reported on a study that delivered oral insulin to rats. The insulin reduced blood sugars for up to eight days following a single dose.

Neither the Israeli nor French researchers felt it was clear whether their preparations eventually could be used to supplement or replace insulin injections.

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