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Insulin Pump Feature May Prevent Low Blood Sugar

Device could improve quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes, experts say

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Currently, insulin pumps are completely user-driven. They do nothing automatically, other than deliver insulin. People with diabetes have to tell the pump how much insulin to deliver, or to stop insulin delivery when blood-sugar levels drop too low.

The new study looked at an insulin pump with a blood-sugar sensor and the capability to suspend insulin delivery if blood-sugar levels go too low. This device is already approved for use in Australia, where the study was conducted, Jones said. And, according to the website of the device's manufacturer, Medtronic, it also has been approved in Europe and Canada, and has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.

The new study compared 49 people on standard pump therapy to 46 people on the low-glucose insulin suspension pump. The study volunteers were between the ages of 4 and 50, and all had type 1 diabetes.

Before the start of the study, the people in the low-glucose insulin suspension group had about six times the rate of moderate to severe hypoglycemic episodes compared to those in the standard pump therapy group.

After six months, that trend almost reversed, and people in the standard insulin pump group had nearly four times as many hypoglycemic episodes as those with the low-glucose insulin suspension pump.

The study found no difference in levels of long-term blood-sugar control between the groups, and there were no serious episodes of high blood-sugar levels in either group.

"The major findings were that moderate and severe hypoglycemia was reduced significantly on the new treatment," Jones said. "There were zero overnight convulsions in the group on the low-glucose suspend treatment, whereas the group on usual therapy continued to have events at the same rate as before."

"New technologies will improve the treatment of diabetes and reduce the burden of care," he said. "To reduce the fear of severe hypoglycemia would be a major advance, as would reduction in the frequency of major events. This would allow diabetics to get better control of their diabetes and improve their lives significantly."

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