Insulin shots are often part of a daily routine for those with Type 1 and even those with Type 2 diabetes. However, with new developments in medicine, insulin shots may become obsolete. Insulin pills are an innovation that could one day present a more convenient option for diabetes patients.
Those with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that turns glucose, a type of sugar, into energy. To fulfill the need for insulin, diabetes patients administer the hormone one of the following ways; a needle and syringe, a pen injection, a pump through a needle, an inhaler, or through a jet injection.
While there are multiple methods by which someone can obtain insulin, none offer the same convenience as taking a single pill. In recent years, research efforts have been in motion to help alter the lives of 400 million diabetics around the world, 40% of which rely on insulin injections.
However, developing insulin in pill form has presented its own challenges. Insulin easily degrades in the stomach due to the acids and enzymes. Even if the insulins makes it past the stomach, the large intestine prevents the insulin from crossing into the bloodstream. These hurdles make oral insulin a difficult task to effectively conquer.
However, researchers may have found a break in their mission to create an insulin pill. In one study, it was found that enterically coated capsules filled with a liquid insulin formula help to lower the blood glucose levels in rats. With an enteric coating, the capsules are able to pass the stomach environment and dissolve in the small intestine.
Researchers found that the rats’ blood glucose levels dropped within the first two hours. After 10 hours, their levels had dropped to about 45%. While the enteric capsule has shown success in rats, it has yet to be tested on humans. After more extensive testing, human trials could possibly happen within the next three to five years.
While there have been advancements, more research is needed to gain a better understanding of the risks associated with insulin pills. Potential symptoms of insulin pills could possibly include, low and high blood sugar as well as an increased risk of cancer.
Although insulin pills are not ready to hit the market just yet, they are proving to be a promising path for diabetes care.