Sanofi, Mannkind launch inhaled insulin Afrezza, target US diabetics squeamish about needles

Hoping to appeal to needle-phobic Americans with diabetes, drugmakers Sanofi and Mannkind have just launched Afrezza, an insulin that's inhaled, not injected.

Sanofi says the fast-acting, dry-powder insulin and the inhaler for administering it have advantages over Exubera, the inhaled insulin Pfizer stopped selling in 2007 after barely a year on the market because of disappointing sales.

Paris-based Sanofi says Afrezza's inhaler is small, doesn't need to be cleaned or have parts replaced periodically and dispenses insulin in the familiar "units" by which injected insulin is measured, making dose calculations easy. Exubera used metric system calculations.

Sanofi, a major player in the huge market for diabetes treatments, licensed worldwide rights to market Afrezza from Mannkind, which developed and tested the drug, right after Afrezza got U.S. approval last June.