For diabetics, nasal powder fixed severe low blood sugar

June 13, 2017 by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—For many people with diabetes, low blood sugar levels are a serious health risk, but researchers report that a new nasal powder quickly reverses the effects of this dangerous condition.

Better yet, it can be administered even when someone is unconscious, the researchers added.

The nasal powder contains the hormone glucagon. This hormone tells the body to release stored , which will generally reverse a episode. Glucagon is currently only available in an injectable form that has to be mixed before it is injected.

"Family members can be terrified to use the injectable form. But 95 percent of caregivers found nasal glucagon very easy to use," said study leader Dr. Elizabeth Seaquist. She's directs the University of Minnesota's division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism.

Seaquist is also a consultant for Eli Lilly and Co., which plans to make nasal glucagon; the company also makes injectable glucagon kits. The study was funded by Lilly and Locemia, the company that originally developed the nasal glucagon.

Low sugar, known as hypoglycemia, occurs when drop too low. This can happen when someone with diabetes takes too much insulin (a hormone that allows the body to use sugar from food for energy). It can also happen if someone doesn't eat enough or exercises harder or longer than planned.

Without enough sugar, the body and brain can't function normally.

Low blood sugar can cause dizziness, hunger, confusion, blurred vision, sweating, slurred speech and irritability, along with other symptoms, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

To treat low blood sugar, the person needs to have a drink or food containing a fast-acting sugar. Examples include fruit juice, soda with sugar, or sugary candy such as licorice (but not chocolate). Usually, blood sugar levels then quickly return to normal.

Left untreated, a low blood sugar episode will worsen. The continued lack of blood sugar may cause disorientation, seizures, unconsciousness and even death. If symptoms don't subside, or the person is too disoriented to eat or drink, glucagon would usually be given.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 300,000 people go to the hospital each year due to severe low blood sugar.

To evaluate the newly developed nasal glucagon, researchers gave people with type 1 diabetes a nasal device to use when they had a low blood sugar episode.

"Nasal glucagon is a dry powder that exists in a small device. It looks something like a nasal steroid inhaler, but smaller. To use, a family member or caregiver takes it out of the container, puts it in the nose and pushes the bottom of the canister... It's absorbed through the nose into the bloodstream," Seaquist explained.

Dr. Cristina Guzman, a study author and senior medical advisor for Eli Lilly, added, "Patients don't have to breathe or inhale, which makes it easy to use."

In the study, 69 people had 157 low blood sugar episodes that were treated with nasal glucagon. Their blood sugar levels ranged from 22 to 74 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. A level of 70 mg/dL or under is typically when a low blood sugar episode begins, according to the American Diabetes Association.

In 96 percent of the episodes, blood sugar levels returned to normal within 30 minutes, the study found. Side effects were similar to injectable glucagon, including nausea and vomiting. The nasal powder also caused some nasal irritation and headache. These side effects tended to last an hour or less, the study found.

Lilly hopes to submit nasal glucagon to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sometime in 2018, according to Chad Grothen, global brand development lead at Eli Lilly. The company will likely seek approvals in other countries after the United States. Right now, the product doesn't have a name, and Grothen couldn't estimate how much it would cost once it hits the market.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, expects the new product will be expensive.

But, he said, it will also be welcome.

"The problem with the injectable is that even when [the caregiver] is taught how to do it, they rarely do it, even when the glucagon is available," he explained.

"Nasal is easier to administer, is absorbed promptly and should be a good formulation," he said.

Findings from the study were to be presented Monday at the American Diabetes Association meeting in San Diego. Studies presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Nasal spray may give diabetics faster treatment for low blood sugar

More information: Elizabeth Seaquist, M.D., director, division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Cristina Guzman, M.D., senior medical advisor, Eli Lilly and Co.; Chad Grothen, global brand development lead, Eli Lilly and Co.; Joel Zonszein, M.D., director, Clinical Diabetes Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; June 12, 2017, American Diabetes Association meeting, San Diego

Learn more about hypoglycemia from the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Related Stories

Nasal spray may give diabetics faster treatment for low blood sugar

December 18, 2015
(HealthDay)—A new nasal spray might make rescue care easier for diabetics who are woozy or even unconscious due to severe low blood sugar, a new clinical trial suggests.

Research elucidates hormone ghrelin's role in blood glucose regulation

May 9, 2017
UT Southwestern research investigating the blood glucose-regulatory actions of the hormone ghrelin may have implications for development of new treatments for diabetes.

Double advantage of potential new diabetes treatment

April 19, 2016
Blocking the hormone that raises sugar levels in the blood could increase insulin levels while keeping blood sugar levels down.

FDA OKs new injectable type 2 diabetes medication

July 28, 2016
(HealthDay)—The injectable drug Adlyxin (lixisenatide) has been approved to treat adults with type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Diabetes drug could protect against low blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin production in the body

February 20, 2015
DPP-4 inhibitors are a group of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes that lower high blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin production in the body. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now discovered that DPP-4 ...

Recommended for you

Insulin pill may delay type 1 diabetes in some

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—It's often said that timing is everything. New research suggests this may be true when giving an insulin pill to try to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes.

Controlling diabetes with your phone might be possible someday

November 21, 2017
Think about this. You have diabetes, are trying to control your insulin levels and instead of taking a pill or giving yourself an injection, you click an app on your phone that tells your pancreas to bring blood sugar levels ...

Simple test predicts diabetes remission following weight loss surgery

November 21, 2017
A new simple test that helps predicts which people with type 2 diabetes will benefit most from weight loss surgery has been developed by a UCL-led team.

Pre-diabetes discovery marks step towards precision medicine

November 20, 2017
Researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre have identified three specific molecules that accurately indicate insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes - a major predictor of metabolic syndrome, the collection ...

Scientists reverse diabetes in a mouse model using modified blood stem cells

November 15, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model by infusing blood stem cells pre-treated to produce more of a protein called PD-L1, which is deficient in mice (and people) ...

Pregnancy-related conditions taken together leave moms—and dads—at risk

November 14, 2017
Research has already shown that women who develop either diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease years later. Now, a new study from a team ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.