Glucagon research noses towards spray replacing the red ‘rescue’ needle

ResearchA recent study has shown that a powdered form of glucagon that can be administered as a nasal spray can rescue a hypo as quickly as injected glucagon.

Glucagon is a hormone with the opposite action to insulin – it helps the body to increase blood glucose levels. This means people with type 1 diabetes know glucagon as the ‘rescue’ drug for severe hypos. But one of the problems with glucagon is that it isn’t stable in liquid form, so if you need to use it, you have to first reconstitute it so that it can be injected into a muscle.

As we reported in September from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Sweden, a US-based team developed a powdered form of glucagon that can be administered as a nasal spray. The powdered glucagon can then be absorbed quickly through the fine blood vessels in the nose, so it isn’t dependent on the person with type 1 actively inhaling the drug.

In a new study published in Diabetes Care at the end of December 2015, the team behind the new glucagon have shown that it can be as effective at rescuing a hypo as quickly as injected glucagon. In the study, 75 people with type 1 volunteered to have the research team induce hypoglycaemia, then use either intranasal glucagon or an intramuscular injection of glucagon to return their glucose levels to normal.

The results were equivalent between the two groups. Although the intranasal glucagon took slightly longer on average to act than the injected glucagon, the researchers point out that in a real world setting, this lag time would be more than accounted for by the need to reconstitute glucagon ready for injection and then administer it properly.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF in the UK commented: ‘This new form of glucagon has the potential to make it quicker and easy to treat severe hypos, which can only be a good thing. Like the rest of the type 1 community, we await further results with interest!’

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