Inhaling an asthma treatment called formoterol could prevent or treat hypoglycemia in adults with type 1 diabetes, a new study suggests.
Formoterol is a beta-2 adrenergic receptor (AR) agonist that helps manage acute asthma. It comes in an inhaled formulation and its onset of action is extremely quick as it provides direct access to the arterial circulation.
Researchers at Yale University conducted a small pilot study in which formoterol – which has previously been investigated as a treatment for nocturnal hypoglycemia – was tested in two different studies.
In the first study protocol, seven patients with type 1 diabetes and seven healthy controls participated, while in the second one, only five type 1 patients were involved.
48mg of inhaled formoterol was given to all participants at the start of the first protocol. After glucose levels were reduced into the hypoglycemia range, formoterol was observed to raise plasma glucose levels among those with type 1 diabetes. No effect was noted in the control group.
Formoterol also delayed the time in which hypoglycemia was reached by between 10 and 15 minutes in both the type 1 and control group.
In the second protocol, 48mg of formoterol was inhaled and the basal infusion of the five type 1 patients was doubled for an hour. In the placebo group, this led to reduced blood glucose levels, but among the type 1s, blood sugar remained stable.
The researchers concluded: “Inhalation of…formoterol may be useful in the prevention or treatment of acute hypoglycemia and thus may help patients with type 1 diabetes achieve optimal glucose control more safely.”
The findings of this study appear in Diabetes Care.

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