Painful insulin injections may become a thing of the past for diabetics. Researchers are experimenting with a special gel that could allow insulin pills to replace needles. Eye on Health has some local reaction in this week's Dealing with Diabetes report.
Henderson resident -- and diabetic -- Michelle Edgington self-administers at least five injections of insulin every day in order to keep her blood sugar levels in check.
"I've learned a lot of tricks, areas on the body, charts so you can remember to rotate around your body so you get less bruising," said Edgington.
Edgington says even though the shots have become less traumatic over time, she would welcome the chance to replace injections with a pill. But she says it's children who would benefit the most.
"Gosh, a 4 and 5-year-old child having to take six shots a day. That's got to be heartbreaking. I can't even imagine what that would be like for a parent. So I think a pill, especially in those situations, would be life-altering," said Edgington.
Now, researchers in Texas say a novel gel-like material could help speed up the arrival of oral insulin.
Las Vegas endocrinologist, Fred Toffel says the biggest problem with inventing such a pill has been the body's digestive process. The gel would supposedly protect the insulin from stomach acid -- until the drug is absorbed.
"So potentially, having an oral form of insulin that gets delivered into the digestive circulation may be of great benefit," said Dr. Toffel.
At the same time, there are roadblocks that could keep the pill from becoming reality for a very long time. Injections are fast and accurate. Those qualities could be very difficult to achieve with oral insulin.
"Dosing of this and safety issues -- all these things will have to be studied in detail before this will come to market," said Dr. Toffel.
The most recent attempt to offer an alternative to injections came in the form of an inhalable insulin-delivery system. The product, called Exubera, proved to be a flop for a number of reasons.
For more about the research looking at insulin pills, click here.
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