Insulin pumps, which deliver fast-acting insulin continuously through a catheter and are often preferred over injections, are still only used by only 20 to 30 percent of the 1.5 million people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with Type I diabetes.
Pumps might start getting more popular as the systems are get smaller, sleeker, and easier to use. Take Tandem Diabetes Care's t:slim, an insulin delivery system that has just been cleared by the FDA.
It's not only the smallest, but also the first to employ touch screen technology. Friends just might get gadget envy.
"Medical devices are often designed for the hospital setting, not for everyday life," Timothy Bailey, director of the Advanced Metabolic Care + Research Institute, said in a news release. "Things like size, look, and feel are often overlooked. Patients need an insulin pump designed to easily integrate into their daily lives. The device needs to be unobtrusive and look more like the consumer electronics they already use every day."
It's about time. Take the open letter that diabetes blogger Amy Tenderich wrote to Steve Jobs in 2007, the week Apple sold its 100-millionth iPod, which a Tandem rep alluded to in an email to the press this week. Tenderich wrote:
If insulin pumps or continuous monitors had the form of an iPod Nano, people wouldn't have to wonder why we wear our "pagers" to our own weddings, or puzzle over that strange bulge under our clothes. If these devices wouldn't start suddenly and incessantly beeping, strangers wouldn't lecture us to turn off our "cell phones" at the movie theater.... Medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in addition to keeping us alive.
Not only does t:slim look nothing like a pager, it also features a rechargeable battery and USB connectivity to web-based therapy management software.
But diabetics will have to wait a little longer. Tandem says it will be be building its customer support, sales, clinical, and business operations in preparation for its U.S. launch during the first half of 2012.