An inhaled medication, Afrezza (human insulin), has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The rapid-acting, inhaled insulin is designed to be used within 20 minutes of beginning a meal, the agency said.
Diabetes affects an estimated 3 million people in South Africa, including many more who haven't been diagnosed.
Serious complications could include heart disease, blindness and damage to the nerves and kidneys.
Read: How to recognise diabetes complications
Afrezza's safety and effectiveness were evaluated in clinical studies involving more than 3,000 people, of whom about two-thirds had type 2 diabetes and the rest had type 1 diabetes.
The drug is not meant to replace long-acting insulin, and must be used in combination with long-acting insulin in people with type 1 disease, the FDA said. It should not be used to treat diabetic ketoacidosis or by smokers, the agency added.
Afrezza has a boxed label warning that users with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) could develop a respiratory condition called acute bronchospasm.
The drug, therefore, shouldn't be used by people with COPD or other forms of chronic lung disease such as asthma or lung cancer, the FDA said.
The most common side effects of the drug are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), cough and throat pain or irritation.
Read: All about TAK 875, the diabetes drug that doesn't affect blood sugar levels
The FDA said it ordered several post-approval studies to evaluate the drug's use among children and the potential risk of developing lung cancer.
Afrezza is manufactured by the US biotech company, MannKind Corp and according to Diabetimine they are in talks with pharmaceutical companies to find a distributor for the medication. It is thought that it would be available to diabetes patients early in 2015.