June 12, 2006
Diabetes device said to simplify patients’ lives
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new device that monitors blood
sugar constantly and lets the patient pump insulin right away
if needed might greatly simplify life for people with diabetes,
experts told a meeting on Monday.
The Medtronic Inc. device combines an insulin pump and a
continuous blood-monitoring system. It sounds an alarm if blood
sugar goes out of safe ranges.
Patients are clamoring to test and use the device,
researchers for the company told the meeting of the American
Diabetes Association in Washington, D.C.
The device, called the Minimed Paradigm Real Time Insulin
Pump and Continuous Glucose Monitoring System, is approved for
people over 18 with insulin-dependent diabetes. People with
type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, depend on
insulin, as do some type 2 diabetics.
"It's a pretty exciting advance," said Dr. John Buse, vice
president of the American Diabetes Association.
"I am not sure that it's the best pump ever and the best
monitoring device ever. It's not an artificial pancreas ... but
it's getting pretty close," Buse added in an interview.
Linda Frederickson, a nurse and diabetes educator who
tested the device for Medtronic, said she was surprised at how
much the device told her.
"I write books and used to write books about food and
carbohydrate and I think I am pretty smart ... but I found out
more about foods using this sensor. You can tell what your
favorite food ... is going to do to you and when it will do
it," she told a briefing for investors and analysts.
"When you take off your pump to take a long leisurely
shower, what will it do to you?"
Dr Bruce Buckingham, a Stanford University pediatric
endocrinologist who tests this and other rival monitors, said
parents were surprised to watch the monitor's effects on their
children with type 1 diabetes.
"It really changed their habits and how they eat and how
they deliver their insulin," Buckingham told the briefing.
Buckingham's study showed that on average, the children in
his study showed a 20 percent decrease in a measure of blood
sugar called A1c. A1c measures a patient's average blood
glucose level over the past three months.
"It was very easy to recruit for this study. Patients were
just wanting to come in," Buckingham said.
"If you have a child with diabetes, 75 percent of seizures
occur at night so they have a continuous monitor that alarms
them when they are low. For the kids, it allows them to have
the alarm and makes them feel more comfortable in trying to
bring their blood sugar down."
Nearly 21 million Americans have diabetes and 3 million of
them have type 1 diabetes.
Patients usually have to constantly prick their fingers
during the day, test their blood sugar level, and then inject
insulin or eat something to adjust their blood sugar level.
It requires constant vigilance and discipline, and patients
do not show immediate symptoms if they fail to control blood
sugar, but they can lose limbs, kidney function and even die.
Insulin pumps allow diabetes patients to take insulin on
both a pre-programmed and as-needed basis throughout the day
and night. Continuous glucose sensors read blood sugar levels
minute-by-minute using a small sensor under the skin that
transmits data to a hand-held device.
Frederickson, a lifelong type 1 diabetic who said she had
good control of her blood sugar already, said the device
improved her levels even more.
"I am just thrilled with it," she said.
"My A1c has improved. My glucose control was already fairly
good but it had gone down half a point," she said.
The company said it was seeking U.S. Food and Drug
Administration approval for use of the device in children but
doctors are free to prescribe any approved device or drug as
they see fit.