While it’s never easy to grapple with a chronic disease, innovative medical technology can make a phenomenal difference in a patient’s quality of life. One of the latest advances in the management options that have just become available to Canadians living with diabetes is the world’s first self-adjusting insulin pump.

“It’s an exciting time for diabetes management,” says Dr. Francine Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Global Medical, Clinical and Health Affairs at Medtronic, a medical device company. “With the MiniMed 670G, we’ve taken technology to a new level through this step in insulin automation that’s personalized to the individual. We’ve had this product in the US and have seen incredible results. As a health care professional, I’ve witnessed improvements in my patients’ time in range, A1C, and quality of life.”

Time for a change in diabetes management

Time in range is an important concept in the management of diabetes. Historically, A1C has been the benchmark for monitoring blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The A1C test measures a person’s average blood glucose levels over a set period of time, such as three months. The test, however, is not foolproof. “A doctor would use a patient’s average A1C to evaluate their risk of long-term, diabetes-related complications,” says Dr. Kaufman. “An average A1C, however, doesn’t provide insight into day to day fluctuations in glucose levels. This is why the concept of time in range is an important one to also measure, as a way to go beyond A1C to truly understand how a patient is doing in their diabetes management on a day to day basis.”

It’s this kind of accuracy and automatic monitoring capability that makes the MiniMed 670G pump a potential game changer. “Time in range is measured through continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and the MiniMed 670G is an insulin pump integrated with CGM,” says Dr. Kaufman. “It uses the CGM readings to automatically adjust the basal (background) insulin to a person’s unique needs.” In fact, the pump uses a smart algorithm that can adapt to fluctuating glucose levels and automatically self-adjust background insulin delivery. “What’s been amazing to see is the improvement in time in range for people living with diabetes — we’ve seen time in range average over 70 percent in our US real-life data, mirroring similar results that we saw in the pivotal clinical trial using this system.”

A greater quality of life

Dessi Zaharieva knows firsthand the role medical technology can play in helping a person successfully manage an illness. Diagnosed with diabetes at age seven, the active mixed martial arts enthusiast has sometimes struggled to properly manage her insulin. “When you wear an insulin pump, it doesn’t do all the thinking for you,” says Zaharieva. “As patients with diabetes, we still have to do a lot of the work ourselves. We must adjust the amount of insulin based on things like when we last had insulin, if we’re going to be exercising, and how our bodies are doing, but there was still a lot of thought that had to go into what kind of adjustments we had to make. There was a lot of room for mistakes.”

Zaharieva is enthusiastic about Canada’s first automatic, self-adjusting insulin pump*, which she feels will make an incredible, positive difference in how she lives with her disease. “An insulin pump that can make basal adjustments automatically will significantly ease much of the thinking that goes into making sure our blood sugars are stable. There's so much user error out there. Living with diabetes, we don’t always make the right decisions. This new pump will be able to make adjustments a lot faster than we could.”

Clearly, innovative research in the field is continuing to give patients like Zaharieva reason to look forward to better control of their condition and improved quality of life. As Dr. Kaufman says, “A technology like this can have a huge impact on both patient outcomes and wellbeing.” Zaharieva agrees, “I think that the new technology is a huge step forward in the tools available to manage diabetes.”

*Some user interaction required