Emerging diabetes tech: The first smart insulin pen (and other developments)

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Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

The last several years have seen significant improvements in diabetes technology, with closed-loop insulin pump systems and their components offering new options that can improve quality of life for those living with diabetes.

While continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and insulin pumps are usually top of mind when thinking about new and improved diabetes tech, a new player has recently joined the team. A smart insulin pen has piqued the interest of those who opt to manage their condition with multiple daily injections (MDIs) or simply want more options for their care.

Here's what to know about the latest developments in diabetes tech and how they can enhance your daily management.

Introducing the first smart insulin pen

It used to be a clear choice — if you wanted the latest and greatest in insulin delivery tech, your only option was to get on a pump. But with the introduction of Companion Medical's InPen, patients have a new way to optimize their diabetes management, no pump site necessary.

A smart insulin pen like the InPen may be a welcome option for folks who prefer MDIs or wish for an alternative to syringes during a pump vacation. The InPen can be used to manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and it's compatible with Humalog, Novolog, and Fiasp cartridges. This can help maintain continuity in your management routine, as you may already use these cartridges with pen needles. Both the InPen and a variety of pen needles are available at Edgepark through your pharmacy benefit.

The InPen offers the consistent support of pump-like features without being physically connected to a device at all times, something that can be undesirable for reasons ranging from adhesive sensitivities to occupational restrictions or simply personal preference.

Some of the other popular smart pen features include:

  • Built-in bolus calculator that can accommodate fixed dosing, meal size estimation, and insulin-to-carb ratios in its calculations.

  • Ability to deliver 0.5 unit increments for more precise dosing than standard adult pens.

  • Insulin temperature monitoring to avoid freezing or frying your medication.

  • Functionality to integrate with CGM data for a full picture of blood glucose levels and insulin delivery.

  • Available in three different colors, each with 12-month battery life and warranty.

  • Affordability (User Access Program helps patients pay as little as $35 for the InPen).

For those who occasionally struggle to remember to bolus or how much insulin they gave in their last dose, the automatic logging and reminder features may be especially impactful. The anxiety that comes along with wondering if you've double-delivered a dose could become a challenge of the past!

Up-and-coming in diabetes tech

It's not just the smart insulin pen that's changing things up in diabetes management. Developments are coming fast and furious, even with some delays due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

For instance, when it comes to hybrid closed-loop systems, there are currently two FDA-approved systems on the market: the Medtronic 770G and Tandem X2 with Control-IQ. As one of two patch pump closed-loop options in the works, Insulet's Omnipod 5 (previously known as Omnipod HORIZON) is likely to be available sometime in 2021. The other tubeless system, Tidepool Loop, is on its way to FDA submission in the near future.

Smaller and billed as more affordable than previous CGM models, the Dexcom G7 (coming soon) and Libre 2 (available now) are fresh options for those who rely upon continuously delivered glucose data to stay safe and optimize their management. As CGM tech becomes widespread and its value is better understood, healthcare providers are able to help more patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes access this important tool.

While mobile apps are already helping people with diabetes — and their loved ones — to live well with diabetes, it's no doubt that this is an area ripe with opportunities to grow as well. Companion apps for connected devices are already widely available and the functionality to deliver insulin from a smartphone is a hot commodity amongst those using diabetes technology in their daily lives.

It's never too late to try something new

It can be tough to keep up with the latest news in emerging diabetes tech — and it would be nearly impossible to cover all of the ideas being worked on at this time. To keep from becoming overwhelmed with too much information, take this simple advice: Stay tuned for more as it becomes available, and be sure to always thoroughly research available options for any category of device or tool you're interested in adding to your routine.

Whether you're a bonafide techie or feel most comfortable sticking to what you know, staying open to learning more about what's available to help you manage your diabetes is never a bad call. Talk to your doctor or Edgepark customer service representative, route questions to a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, read patient experiences online, and connect with your "diabuddies" to explore the options that sound most interesting and beneficial to you.

Interested in learning more about the InPen? Explore the Edgepark website to review its functions and submit an order.

Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

Bio: Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC is a Mayo Clinic-trained National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and the author of “Type 1 Diabetes Caregiver Confidence: A Guide for Caregivers of Children Living with Type 1 Diabetes.” Drawing from her own experience in living with T1D, Samantha is dedicated to empowering individuals and families to live well and thrive while managing health challenges and achieving their goals.

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