Kelly Rawlings is editorial director of Diabetes Forecast magazine, the healthy living magazine published by the American Diabetes Association. She’s lived with diabetes since 1973. She is really glad that—among many other improvements in diabetes tools and care—blood glucose meters have replaced the color-changing Clinitest tablets used once-upon-a-time to test urine for glucose. Yeah, like that did any good.
More products, more choices are two trends in the diabetes product and device industry. Consider blood glucose meters: we counted 93 as we gathered product information and specs for the Diabetes Forecast 2016 Consumer Guide. The annual issue features medical devices and other tools designed to help people take care of their diabetes day in, day out.
The Consumer Guide also takes a look at what’s trending in the product development pipeline and how such innovations may be able to help people with diabetes. Here are some notable trends in not-yet-available products. Some you may be able to buy before the end of the year; others may require months more of rigorous testing and FDA regulatory clearance.
1. Patch “pumps” for people with type 2 diabetes who use insulin. There’s one product on the U.S. market currently, the V-Go, and the Imperium patch pump is in testing. These disposable insulin delivery devices release a pre-set basal rate throughout the day and allow the user to type in bolus amounts for mealtimes. The idea is that a steady stream of insulin may more closely mimic what the body needs rather than giving large doses by injection (which sometimes aren’t absorbed well).
2. Infusion set improvements. Infusion sets are needed to get the insulin in a pump from the cartridge to just under the skin, where the insulin can be absorbed into the blood stream. Current infusion sets are indicated for no more than three days of wear and can clog and/or irritate the skin—which means insulin may not be absorbed as well as it should and can be an infection risk. One new developmental product by BD has an opening at the end of the cannula that stays under the skin and on the side—offering two outlets for the insulin and thus the hope of fewer clogs or insulin interruptions.
3. User-friendly delivery methods for glucagon. This rescue medication is used by someone else to treat a severe low in a person with diabetes who is unconscious or otherwise unable to eat or drink something containing glucose. Currently, glucagon powder has to be mixed with a sterile solution and injected—without training and in the middle of an emergency situation, this can be difficult. New forms of investigational glucagon are a Lilly intranasal version delivered by a puff into the nose (where the medication is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream) or a peel-and-stick patch by Zosano Pharma.
4. Insulin pen memory aids. Insulin pens with memory features that show when the last dose was delivered have come and gone. People who use pens love that feature (yes, in my injection days, before using a pump, I would sometimes give a dose and later not be sure if I really had delivered the insulin). Now, clip-on memory devices as well as app-enabled pens like that being developed by InPen are in the works to help users keep track of the timing and size of their doses.
5. Fashion and function. People with diabetes have long wondered why their meters, pumps, and other devices aren’t as attractive and functional as their smartphones. I won’t get into all the challenges, but I can report that meter makers are designing app-enabled devices that look more like cosmetic accessories than medical devices. Goodbye clunky plastic “bricks,” hello rose gold OneDrop meter and its companion lancing device, which looks as sleek and shiny as a high-end lipstick!
More products, more choices are a good thing for people with diabetes. Of course, here’s hoping that manufacturers are listening to empowered patients when it comes to designing product features that consumers like best.