Exceptions to the Over-used Word “Innovation”

If one can be considered a “fortunate” T1 diabetic (a dubious concept), I’ll call myself one.

When I was diagnosed, insulin was derived from pig and cow pancreases, came in a few varieties, and had wide +/- ranges on “time to peak action.”  If you wanted to “check your blood,” you slashed your fingertip, dropped huge globule of blood onto a reagent strip and after a minute, compared it to a color chart for your blood glucose measure.

We T1s benefit from real innovation.  Today, a host of reliable recombinant human DNA insulin (fast-acting and long-duration varieties), more (better, accurate) blood glucose meters than you can shake a stick at, and a few other very cool medical devices (the CD-Daughter, is a 12-year insulin pump veteran) make life vastly different for the T1 diabetic than when I was first diagnosed.

So, yeah, I count myself as fortunate.  And I’m a fan of the companies – really, the people who work for the companies – who developed these drugs and devices.

Then again, it’s not like we see these developments frequently – particularly for T1s.  There are a lot more T2s in the world, so they get the lion’s share of goodies intended for diabetics.

The other day, T1s got a pleasant surprise with FDA’s approval of Abbott’s Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitor.  Full disclosure:  I loved my Freestyle blood monitor (until my insurance told me they didn’t cover it anymore).  And I liked my Dexcom G4 CGM (though I had a five month nightmare with the G5).  Yes, I’m predisposed to the CGM concept, and yes, I’m predisposed to Abbott.

The difference between checking your blood with normal “finger sticks” on the BG monitor and keeping track of it with a CGM is like the difference between knowing what temperature it is right now and having a five day weather report.  The CGM tells you the trends – when you’re sailing up, when you’re crashing down.  I can’t tell you the number of 260s and 60s I’ve avoided because the CGM showed me where I was headed.

But how cool is this?  The Freestyle Libre “patch” (it’s the size of two quarters stacked and adhere’s to your upper arm) is good for 10 days.  And you don’t have to calibrate it with finger sticks.  (The Dexcom is good for a week, and you have to calibrate twice a day with a BG machine.)

I believe more and better CGMs will be a very important step forward for T1s in keeping track of their blood glucose.  No dings on Dexcom; they blazed the trail.  But where Freestyle Libre is taking CGM seems like widening the trail so more of us can take advantage of this real innovation.  Bravo, Abbott.


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