Artificial Pancreas? Say what now?!

***Note, I’m not a tech guru.  I panic when I have to update my iPhone and can’t find my apps on the correct screen.  My husband manages the DVR because I don’t understand why we can’t record 200 shows at once and having to pick only two overwhelms me.  And, as always, I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medical advice and all that stuff.***

In case you haven’t heard the news, Medtronic has developed an artificial pancreas.  AND, even better, the FDA has approved it!  HUZZAH!  So this means that I can slap on a pump and CGM sensor, leave it there, and not have to think about diabetes for a few days until it’s time to change my site?  Right?  Like, that’s it?!?!  The days of finger pricks, bolusing, temp basaling are over?  Freakin’ awesome, man.

Scrreeeeeeech.  Wait a hot second.  According to this article by The Wall Street Journal, “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a pump designed to automatically stop insulin delivery in diabetes patients when blood-sugar levels are too low, the first “artificial pancreas” to be approved in the U.S.”.  Heh?  I mean, that’s cool and all, but is that an artificial pancreas?

“Medtronic’s MiniMed 530G, which includes a sensor, sends out an alert if (blood sugar) levels are too low, and if the individual is sleeping, unconscious or unable to react, the pump will shut off for two hours.”  Oooook.  But what does it do if my blood sugar is creeping up?  Does it automatically bolus insulin or set a temp basal?  What about if I eat a bowl of pasta?  Will it sense my blood sugar rising and do what needs to be done to keep me in that 100-130 zone?

To me, this sounds like a pump with a shut-off feature.  Definitely an added security measure that I am sure many people will be happy to have for themselves, their spouses, their children.  Hell, I dropped to 40 the other night and didn’t hear my CGM beeping at me.  (Thank you to the husband for waking me up so I could treat and clip coupons!)  A shutoff feature would’ve been great in this situation!

Another thing that concerns me is that according to the interwebs and other rumor mills, the Medtronic CGM isn’t quite as accurate as the Dexcom.  I wonder how many false shutoffs occur?  And if they do and your body is getting zero insulin for two hours while you’re blissfully unaware in dreamland…well, that’s not really a good thing.

Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but when I have those pesky middle-of-the-night lows, I’m not quite fully awake.  I stumble to the kitchen, pretend I’m only consuming 15g carbs, wait (half-asleep) for 15 minutes, test again, and stumble back to bed.  I can guarantee that I’d forget to turn my pump back on and would not be getting insulin to cover all those carbs (Because we all know, it’s more than 15g) I just consumed.  Of course from the sound of it, this device is geared more towards when the wearer is incapable of treating their low, but still.  I’m forgetful.

So while I think that this new device is a step in the right direction towards the artificial pancreas, I think it’s more of a baby step than the giant leap it’s being made out to be.  Artificial, to me, means I don’t have to think about it.  I want a device that I just wear on my hip and it does all the work for me – it knows when I’m exercising and to give me less insulin, when I’m stressed to give me more insulin, or when I’m indulging in a plate of nachos and may need an extended bolus.  Sure, I’ll change out my insulin/glucagon and change the site every few days, check my sugar for calibration purposes, but, other than that, I want something that is mindless.  To me, artificial pancreas does not = pump with a shutoff feature.

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3 thoughts on “Artificial Pancreas? Say what now?!

  1. I whole heartily agree with all of what you just said! When I saw artificial I was like, hugh, why have I not heard or seen anything about an artificial pancreas like I have the bionic pancreas? Because its a marketing ploy! Artificial pancreas my butt! I’ll wait for the bionic pancreas. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

  2. Thanks for your post. I totally agree and wonder how the groups who are doing trials right now with a bionic pancreas feel about this “news.” If I were them, I wouldn’t be happy at all, to say the least.

  3. I must admit I was confused by this as well. Don’t get me wrong–I called my rep on Friday to get me one ASAP and am totally excited about it. However, I only see the LGS feature as a step towards an AP, not the end product. I was surprised to see that phrase being thrown around so liberally, especially when I’ve seen articles about clinical trials for a true AP that incorporates glucagon as well.

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