Continuous Monitoring: The Next Big Thing

Working in the fast-paced technology industry as I do, I just can’t fathom why they haven’t yet come up with a viable device to continuously monitor blood glucose levels. I mean something you wear on your ankle, or wrist, or ear lobe, you know? OK, they tried the wrist with the GlucoWatch, but that was a burnout –- literally -– because it hurt patients’ skin and proved inaccurate.

But with all our hopes for islet cell transplantation, implantable pumps, and a REAL CURE, it remains most likely that some kind of device for continuous BG monitoring will be the Next Big Thing available to the average diabetes patient. At least one major Health Care Institute in New England is pushing to market these devices asap in order to “dramatically change daily life” for scores of diabetics, including the many, many children affected.

“Instead of a single snapshot of blood-sugar levels, continuous monitoring can show whether glucose is rising or falling, and how quickly” -– which, they note, will help us more accurately set insulin doses and avoid complications. Yes, sir! (This is what bothered me about the “group glucose check” on the DLife premiere, by the way; they didn’t explain that “the numbers” are just snapshots in time, varying greatly by how recently the person has eaten, dosed, or exercised).

The systems that are available now are experimental, super expensive (in the $2,000 to $5,000 range), and of course, not yet covered by health plans. But I happen to know that MedTronic’s all-in-one implantable device combining glucose monitoring with an insulin pump (!) is being successfully tested in Germany as I write. Over there, they’re calling it the “artificial pancreas” –- which appeals even to pump-o-phobics like me. It’s all internal, and the patient has only to inject insulin into the implanted “reservoir” twice a week, I believe. No word yet on how soon this will be available to the average Joe D.

Sontra Medical Corp. and Bayer AG are also working on an external device that you run over your skin like those new-fangled thermometers used on the forehead to detect fever. This one will wirelessly transmit BG readings to a meter, and “may be ready for the home market by 2008.”

The best part about the New England Healthcare Institute study is that it talks turkey to the FDA: noting that insurance companies won’t want to pay for the devices without demonstrated proof of their value compared to traditional finger-stick methods. But this will be extremely difficult without a way to demonstrate long-term benefits (the serious complications develop over many years!). The study also urges the FDA to establish new accuracy standards “to judge the coming generation of machines.” Here, here! Let’s have a way to compare products before we all waste our time and money.

In any case, I for one can hardly wait to be continuously monitored (ooooh, another sentence I thought I’d never utter). One great place to keep up with the latest and greatest in advancements, especially “therapies that are aimed at eliminating the need for exogenous insulin and research that is cure-focused” is the set of Web sites at DiabetesPortal.com, including IsletService.com and the Insulin-Free Times.

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4 Responses

  1. Alexis Gallisa
    Alexis Gallisa April 5, 2005 at 1:49 pm | | Reply

    A couple of other blood monitors which I though looked promising but have not heard a word about in for ever. The movie “Panic Room” was just a big tease (the little girl had a slick Nike like watch for checking her blood sugar).

    Same people who make the excellent freestyle meters
    http://www.therasense.com/corporate/faq/futureproducts.html

    Not sure what happened to pendragon, this device looked really nice simply becasue of its size, but their website seems to have gone offline about 6 months ago. Here is a page which references it.
    http://www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_technology/pendragon.php

    And of course Mendosa keeps good tabs on these as well. http://mendosa.com/third_generation.htm

  2. Amy Tenderich
    Amy Tenderich April 5, 2005 at 2:04 pm | | Reply

    Too right, Alexis. I am a huge Therasense fan (love their little FreeStyle Flash meter!), but I’m really more excited about the continuous monitoring devices that are NON-INVASIVE. No more needles, please! And yes, as Mendosa notes, the Next Generation is “underway” but ETA is still TBD.

  3. Kathleen Weaver
    Kathleen Weaver April 5, 2005 at 7:29 pm | | Reply

    I’ve written you my answer on my blog — http://www.kweaver.org — sure wish trackbacks worked.

  4. Jonathan
    Jonathan April 7, 2005 at 3:47 pm | | Reply

    Is it just my imagination, or has continuous monitoring been two years away for about six or eight years now?

    Just like fusion power. . .

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