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Afrezza (inhalation)

Generic Name: insulin (inhalation) (IN soo lin IN ha LAY tion)
Brand Name: Afrezza

What is insulin inhalation?

Insulin is a hormone that works by lowering levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin inhalation is a fast-acting insulin that starts to work about 15 minutes after inhalation, peaks in about 1 hour, and keeps working for 2 to 4 hours.

Insulin inhalation (inhaled through the mouth) is used to improve blood sugar control in adults with diabetes mellitus.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will also need to use a long-acting injectable insulin.

If you have type 2 diabetes, insulin inhalation may be the only medicine you need to control your blood sugar. However, your doctor may prescribe a long-acting injectable insulin or a diabetes medicine you take by mouth.

Insulin inhalation may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about insulin inhalation?

Insulin inhalation can cause sudden or serious lung problems. You should not use this medicine if you smoke or have recently quit, or if you have chronic lung disease such as COPD or asthma.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking insulin inhalation?

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to insulin, or if you are having an episode of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Insulin inhalation can cause sudden or serious lung problems. Do not use this medicine if you have:

  • a history of lung cancer; or

  • chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Do not use insulin inhalation if you smoke or have recently quit smoking (within the past 6 months).

In studies with insulin inhalation, lung cancer occurred in a small number of people. It is not clear whether this medicine was the actual cause of lung cancer. Your doctor will perform lung function tests before and during your treatment with insulin inhalation.

Insulin inhalation is not approved for use by anyone younger than 18 years old.

To make sure insulin inhalation is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • a history of breathing problems;

  • liver or kidney disease;

  • low levels of potassium in your blood (hypokalemia); or

  • diabetic ketoacidosis (call your doctor for treatment).

Tell your doctor if you also take pioglitazone or rosiglitazone (sometimes contained in combinations with glimepiride or metformin). Taking certain oral diabetes medicines while you are using insulin may increase your risk of serious heart problems.

It is not known whether insulin inhalation will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

It is not known whether insulin inhalation passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using this medicine.

How should I take insulin inhalation?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose to make sure you get the best results. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Read all patient information, medication guides, and instruction sheets provided to you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Use insulin inhalation at the beginning of a meal.

Insulin inhalation is a powder contained inside a plastic cartridge that fits into the inhaler device supplied with this medicine. Only one cartridge can be placed in the inhaler device at one time. You may use each inhaler device for up to 15 days before replacing it with a new one.

Each blue cartridge of insulin inhalation powder is equal to 4 units of injectable insulin. Each green cartridge is equal to 8 units of injectable insulin. If your dose is more than 8 units, you will need to use more than one cartridge. Always use the least number of cartridges possible to get your correct dose. For example, if your dose is 12 units, use one 4-unit cartridge and one 8-unit cartridge to equal 12 units. For a dose of 16 units, use two 8-unit cartridges. Follow the dosing chart provided with this medicine to learn about combining cartridges to get the correct dose.

Insulin inhalation cartridges are packaged in a plastic blister card that is sealed inside a foil package. Store each unopened foil package in a refrigerator. An unopened foil package that is not refrigerated must be used within 10 days.

When you open the foil package, remove only the number of cartridges needed for your dose, put the rest of the blister card back into the foil package and return it to the refrigerator. Leave the cartridges needed for your dose at room temperature for 10 minutes before using them.

Once you have opened a foil package, you may store it at room temperature. After tearing open an individual blister-card strip, you must use the cartridges in that strip within 3 days.

While using insulin inhalation, your blood sugar will need to be checked often. You may also need to have lung function tests every 6 to 12 months.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can happen to everyone who has diabetes. Symptoms include headache, hunger, sweating, irritability, dizziness, nausea, fast heart rate, and feeling anxious or shaky. To quickly treat low blood sugar, always keep a fast-acting source of sugar with you such as fruit juice, hard candy, crackers, raisins, or non-diet soda.

Your doctor can prescribe a glucagon emergency injection kit to use in case you have severe hypoglycemia and cannot eat or drink. Be sure your family and close friends know how to give you this injection in an emergency.

Also watch for signs of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) such as increased thirst or urination, blurred vision, headache, and tiredness.

Blood sugar levels can be affected by stress, illness, surgery, exercise, alcohol use, or skipping meals. Ask your doctor before changing your insulin dose or schedule.

Insulin is only part of a treatment program that may also include diet, exercise, weight control, regular blood sugar testing, and special medical care. Follow your doctor's instructions very closely.

Wear a diabetes medical alert tag in case of emergency. Any medical care provider who treats you should know that you have diabetes.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you forget to use your dose at the beginning of a meal, use the medicine as soon as you remember. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Insulin overdose can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia. Symptoms include drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in your mouth, trouble speaking, muscle weakness, clumsy or jerky movements, seizure (convulsions), or loss of consciousness.

What should I avoid while taking insulin inhalation?

Do not smoke while using insulin inhalation. If you start smoking, you will have to stop using insulin inhalation and switch to another form of insulin to control your blood sugar.

Insulin can cause low blood sugar. Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how this medicine will affect you.

Avoid drinking alcohol or taking medicines that contain alcohol.

Insulin inhalation side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of insulin allergy: redness or swelling where an insulin injection was given, itchy skin rash over the entire body, trouble breathing, fast heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out, or swelling in your tongue or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • bronchospasm (wheezing, chest tightness, trouble breathing);

  • fluid retention--weight gain, swelling in your hands or feet, feeling short of breath; or

  • low potassium--leg cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, increased thirst or urination, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness or limp feeling.

Common side effects may include:

  • low blood sugar;

  • cough; or

  • throat pain or irritation.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect insulin inhalation?

Many other medicines can affect your blood sugar, and some medicines can increase or decrease the effects of insulin. Some drugs can also cause you to have fewer symptoms of hypoglycemia, making it harder to tell when your blood sugar is low. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist can provide more information about insulin inhalation.
  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 2.02.

Last reviewed: August 23, 2016
Date modified: November 30, 2016

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