The Food and Drug Administration surprised—and pleased—the diabetes medical community this year when they approved a new, high-tech insulin delivery system for Type I diabetics six months sooner than anybody expected, including the maker, Medtronic. The device, called the MiniMed 670G System, is the first to have insulin delivery regulated by real-time monitoring of a patient’s blood glucose levels, which allows the user to much more easily maintain healthy glucose levels, avoiding damaging episodes of high and low blood sugar.
“For years patients have worn glucose monitors and insulin pumps,” says Dr. Jill Vollbrecht, medical director of the Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative. “But until now, the monitor and the pump did not talk to each other.” The 670G device is external to the body, with a sensor and a catheter running just under the skin. The monitor/ pump pairing is able to adjust insulin delivery based on the glucose reading and administers micro-doses of insulin every five minutes. Patients still have to monitor things like insulin dosage for meals, but the delivery of the insulin is more nuanced than traditional pumps, and leads to more consistent blood sugar levels.
A key benefit of the technology is helping patients avoid low blood sugar at night. Low blood sugar episodes increase the odds of dementia, and unfortunately, each low blood sugar episode a patient has diminishes the body’s warning system for low blood sugar conditions. With the MiniMed 670G, “Your spouse doesn’t have to be on alert for low blood sugar at night and you don’t have to eat special food before you go to bed, so it’s easier to lose weight,” Vollbrecht says. The Medtronic literature says patients have 75 percent fewer episodes of nighttime low blood sugar than people not using the device. Physicians also like that the data from the glucose monitor is uploaded to cloud storage, so the medical team can easily track the patient’s blood sugar levels.
Dr. Jill Vollbrecht was thrilled to be able to begin using the technology, but she concedes her team was challenged in wanting to implement it promptly and safely. She and her colleagues carefully screened patients who were interested in the pump, meeting with each one to explain that, while the device is a big advancement, “it is not hands-free,” as she says. “We wanted to do it right, put patient safety at the forefront and make sure we could get good data.” The first few patients went live with the device this summer. Vollbrecht expects 15 to 25 patients will be using the device in
Northern Michigan within a few months.
Will combined glucose monitor/pump devices be standard for Type I diabetics soon? “It still all depends on the patient,” Vollbrecht says. “Take my mom for example. She has been diabetic most of my life and she still prefers the shot. She knows the process. She’s comfortable with it. It makes sense to her.”
If people you know might be interested in the MiniMed 670G, have them talk with their physician to gain a thorough understanding of all the pros and cons and how it will t into their lifestyle, Vollbrecht advises.