Big Strides Made in Diabetes Care

From - January 5, 2018

Big Strides Made in Diabetes Care

FRIDAY, Jan. 5, 2018 -- This past year was a busy, productive one for diabetes research and care.

"2017 was a year of progress in our understanding of diabetes and its complications, the tools available to help people manage their diabetes, and attention to the economic and accessibility challenges faced by people with diabetes," said Dr. William Cefalu, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Strides were made in:

Artificial pancreas technology

Probably the biggest and most anticipated news of 2017 was the rollout of the so-called artificial pancreas. Created by Medtronic, the device combines an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor and a computer algorithm that measures blood sugar levels and then delivers insulin automatically when those levels rise. Insulin delivery is also temporarily suspended if blood sugar levels drop too low.

The device is not completely automated yet. People with diabetes still need to know how to count the carbohydrates in their food and enter that information into their insulin pump.

And the device still requires people with diabetes to check their blood sugar several times a day and enter that information into the machine -- this is known as "calibrating." The hope is that future versions of the device wo not require these steps.

Aaron Kowalski, chief mission officer for JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), said, "We have waited a long time to see these systems come to market, and while it's not yet perfect, it has opened the door, and there's definitely a benefit."

He added that a number of other insulin pump manufacturers and independent companies are working on their own artificial pancreas systems. "Competition is really important and helps drive innovation. The next few years will hold promise," Kowalski added.

Improving heart health

Heart disease is a significant concern for people with diabetes. New research suggested that long-term use of metformin could reduce the risk of heart disease in people with type 1 diabetes. Other medications have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes. These include Jardiance, Invokana and Victoza.

"Cardiovascular disease is the most deadly and expensive complication of diabetes, and a number of recent studies have shown that certain medications also have a strong protective effect against cardiovascular disease in people at high risk for it," Cefalu said.

Competition in the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) market

The artificial pancreas was not the only innovation in diabetes technology in 2017. Another continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Made by Abbott and called the Libre, this device has been in use in Europe for several years.

The major difference in the Libre is that you have to request the blood sugar information. Other devices on the market -- from Dexcom and Medtronic -- send blood sugar information collected by a tiny sensor wire inserted under the skin to a receiver every five minutes or so.

The Libre also uses a tiny sensor wire inserted under the skin, but the person with diabetes has to request the information be sent to the receiver. In addition, the Libre also does not require any fingerstick calibration as other devices on the market do.

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