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Study: Insulin Pump Better Than Injections

Researchers Say 'Artificial Pancreas' for Type 1 Diabetes May Be Reality in Several Years

Insulin Pump-Sensor Improved Diabetes Control continued...

After one year of treatment, patients in the pump group had significantly lower hemoglobin A1c levels than those in the insulin injection group. A1c levels in pump patients dropped from an average of 8.3% to 7.5%, while levels dropped to just 8.1% in the insulin injection group.

Adults who used the pump had better outcomes than children and teens, but they were also more likely to use the devices for longer periods.

And even though the pump patients achieved better blood sugar control, the incidence of severe low blood sugar was similar for both groups.

The study appears in the July 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It was funded by Medtronic.

Motivated Patients Had Best Outcomes

Highly motivated study participants achieved the best blood sugar control.

Patients who used the pumps 80% of the time reduced their risk of developing diabetes complications by 30% to 40%, Bergenstal says.

In an editorial accompanying the study, endocrinologist Howard A. Wolpert, MD, of Boston's Joslin Diabetes Center questioned whether the devices would work as well in the general practice setting.

"The expert training and guidance received by patients in clinical trials cannot be readily duplicated in a busy clinical practice," he writes.

But in an interview with WebMD, Wolpert called the insulin pump-sensor device an important step forward in diabetes management for the right patient.

"This technology really does bring diabetes self-management to the next level," he says. "But patients really do need to be pretty skilled in using the information provided by the sensor effectively."

The next generation of pumps that both monitor and deliver insulin automatically are poised to simplify diabetes management. But Wolpert says patient education will still be a critical component of controlling the disease, Wolpert says.

Francine Kaufman, MD, who is vice president of global medical affairs for Medtronic, tells WebMD the company recently began studies in the U.S. of a pump-sensor device that will automatically stop delivering insulin if blood sugar drops too low.

The company is already marketing such a device in Europe, and she says the goal is to win FDA approval in the U.S. within the next several years.


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