A Closer Look at Medtronic’s New MiniLink — and Beyond

OK, I’ll admit, I was a little confused about Medtronic’s recent announcements: a new Guardian RT continuous monitor?  A pediatric version?  And a pretty unobtrusive-looking MiniLink transmitter?  But was that a new component, or something sold separately?  And what about the people already using the product, with that dongle-thing attached?   

Not one to settle for confusion, I have chased down a senior PR manager over there, Steve Sabicer, and gotten the skinny (he, he):




* Medtronic’s ground-breaking Paradigm Real-Time combo insulin pump and CGM system has been reintroduced with the amazing new tiny wireless and waterproof MiniLink transmitter, attached to the body via adhesive (just one thing – no dongles).  The MiniLink is “exactly one-half the size of a pregnant poker chip,” according to LifeAfterDx blogger Wil, who’s among the first to use it.

* The stand-alone Guardian Real-Time CGM (continuous glucose monitor only) has also been reintroduced with the MiniLink transmitter.  It previously used yet another transmitter model, but going forward, both the Paradigm and Guardian systems are “standardized” on the MiniLink transmitter. Quite an improvement!

* A Guardian REAL-Time System will currently run you $1,339, while the Starter Kit for the Paradigm REAL-Time System is priced at $649.  And for those who already own either product, upgrades to the MiniLink transmitter are available for $399 through July 31st, or take advantage of Medtronic’s “Extra Bonus Special” price of $349 ($50 off) until April 23, Sabicer says. 

* Meanwhile, the company has obtained FDA approval for both products to be used by kids ages 7-17.  Special “versions” for kids are really only different in one way, Sabicer says: they have a “hard threshold” of a maximum low of 90 BG. That means the low alarm is set to go off at 90, and this level cannot be lowered — safety reg for children, apparently.

Not surprisingly, the company has had “lots of positive feedback on the small size and sleek design,” Sabicer says.  He couldn’tMinilink_stack reveal the numbers, but says they’ve had a “robust uptake in sales now that this new generation product is available nationally.”  (It’s been about a month on the nationwide market, versus limited availabililty in seven cities previously.)

Sounds like great response considering that none of the national health plans cover CGM yet.  The JDRF and other groups are pushing, but all seem to agree that broad coverage of this therapy will take another 2-3 years.  So for now, you’ve got to want it enough to pay out of pocket.  Among the D-blogger community, there are already at least one or two who did

Even without having seen it in person, the MiniLink looks pretty impressive to me.  Tiny is GOOD.  Waterproof is GOOD.  Which makes for discreet and comfortable.

So has Medtronic been following the discussions here about improving diabetes device design?  Yes, sir! 

“We read you guys (diabetes bloggers) every day.  We’re happy that you’re very active and enthusiastic,” Sabicer says. “We appreciate feedback.  It helps us make better decisions for future products.”

Which might look like…?

“Our ultimate vision is to integrate the devices into consumer products like cell phones, wrist watches, and PDAs, and to make the user interface more intuitive, so people can use the devices with very little instruction,” Sabicer says.

“We also want to make improvements like making the screens clearer, with a higher resolution, so that if you have retinopathy, for example, you can still see it.”

So does Medtronic have their eye on breakout products like the OmniPod?

“Surely there’s a great opportunity in the area of ‘patch pumps’.  We’re exploring all kinds of innovations,” he says.

Got some tips for Medtronic?  Feel free to post them here.


14 Responses

  1. Maureen
    Maureen April 16, 2007 at 6:30 am | | Reply

    I sooo want this for my son. He’s 11 and hitting puberty which is hell on the blood sugars. We need to somehow get the insurance companies(note that I do not call them providers since they don’t always provide)to realize that bette r care now means fewer problems later. Maybe they do need to walk in my kids shoes for a few days!

  2. Kassie
    Kassie April 16, 2007 at 6:52 am | | Reply

    Tips for medtronic? Focus on customer service over design. Improve your billing/accounting practices. Provide your sales/support force with accurate customer info.

    I’ll admit I don’t care as much about design anyway, so my comments are skewed, but even the sleekest, prettiest, fanciest MM device would be last on my purchase list, given their customer track service record with me.

    (sorry to hijack, but I’m thinking they don’t read my blog quite as closely as this one)

  3. Kevin D
    Kevin D April 16, 2007 at 8:19 am | | Reply

    I agree with Kassie. I have been trying to get a CGM device since about early/mid March. MM has yet to ever contact me personally.

    I have also been told EVERYTIME I contact that insurance will not cover it yet my insurance said they will and MM just needs to send them the bill which MM says can’t happen since insurance won’t cover it.

    I have also been given a rash of different prices on the Guardian RT that make me wonder how much it would truely cost. Everytime I call it’s a different price and they immediately push to try and sell me the complete pump and CGMS which I tell them I don’t want since I have a quality working pump with superb customer service.

    I think what MM has made is great and I have seen and love the Guardian RT. I just wish they would give a little more helping hand and not a saleperson hand.

  4. Anne
    Anne April 16, 2007 at 9:50 am | | Reply

    Honestly, I will probably never buy a pump that is not waterproof (and I don’t just mean water-resistant). I already worry about enough to have to think about that one.

    Also, for pumps in general, I wish they could deliver a smaller minimum basal rate. (MM is 0.05, Animas is 0.025 U/hr.) I guess this is probably a limitation to the amount that could accurately be delivered by the motor and the amount that will actually exit the catheter. (Maybe?) I guess this could most easily be solved by having different concentrations of insulin available.

    On the other hand, I am very happy to see that MM is taking strong leadership in integrating the CGM and pump into one device! I think it is a fantastic development and hope that insurance companies can get on board. I also hope that the prices will come down over the next few years.


  5. Brendan
    Brendan April 16, 2007 at 3:46 pm | | Reply

    The 722/522 is generally better than the 517/717—but why on earth did they make it less obvious when you’ve suspended your pump? You used to see three black dots and SUSPEND in capital letters. Now its one measly dot. I’ve missed it and missed some basal action several times.

  6. art-sweet
    art-sweet April 16, 2007 at 6:39 pm | | Reply

    Okay, this is just a small thing but it irritates me. And I’ve emailed MM about it SEVERAL TIMES and never gotten a response.

    I use the bd meter that sends results automatically to the pump. If you have a BG reminder set, and your meter sends a result to the pump, the BG REMINDER SHOULD GO OFF WITHOUT ANY FURTHER ACTION ON YOUR PART. It’s super annoying to have to turn it off manually.

  7. Megan
    Megan April 16, 2007 at 10:15 pm | | Reply

    My advice to MM is that they need to focus on their pump also. Their CGMS has come a long way recently, but their pump really hasn’t been upgraded much since the addition of the Bolus Wizard in 2002, I believe it was. As a result, it’s starting to lag behind other pumps that have companies that focus on the pump itself. I would love a CGMS, but I can’t afford one, so MM wasn’t my choice for pump company because I could go elsewhere and get better technology for what I would be using it for.

  8. Sarah
    Sarah April 17, 2007 at 12:45 am | | Reply

    The major issue here is cost for CONTINUED USE (i.e. the sensors). We all know it sounds great to get a “free” meter worth $50, but the meter is really not so free when you realize that you pay $1 per strip. Sensors, on top of the test strips needed to actually make insulin adjustments = only Bill Gates can afford to be a diabetic.

    I also wanted to buy an RT alone (I refuse to trade in my Cozmo for a MM pump), but the cost is STILL insane.

    I’m happy that the technology has improved, but I sure hope we are all not still using the “RT Version 345″ in 20 years. We have come a long way, but we are still too far from where we need to be. Mechanical Technology to treat diabetes will always have its limitations.

  9. Kevin D
    Kevin D April 17, 2007 at 5:53 am | | Reply

    Megan, I have to totally agree with you and that’s one of my biggest peeves with Minimed. Their pump lacks alot of features that both the Animas and Cozmo have added (along with the other smaller pump companies.) Some of them I think to be huge safety features in terms of alarms that don’t go off when I think an alarm should (and my Animas has that alarm.)

    I think they have been spending way too much time on the CGMS and have let their pumps fall way behind. I’d maybe consider a MM pump if they had something atractive on it, but right now, they have nothing positive for them and the pump is what insurance is 99% guaranteed to cover no questions asked.

  10. Hannah
    Hannah April 17, 2007 at 12:21 pm | | Reply

    Since I started pumping 7 years ago, I’ve only had Minimed pumps, and I really like them. I have a fairly high insulin dosage, and I feel a lot of the other pump companies focus on T1′s with small basals and boluses.

    Minimed–I’d like to see a larger bolus amount.

    My customer service experiences with Minimed have always been helpful. I’ve never had a problem with service, but the billing can be nightmarish!

    Seriously, Minimed needs to get their billing together. I was having trouble making my supply payments. They built up, but I don’t consistently get a bill every month. Minimed called to tell me my account was past due, and it was a high amount. We discussed breaking it down into budgeted monthly payments. I even made a payment over the phone, and just a week ago I received a bill for the huge lump sum again!

    Honestly, Minimed, if you really are reading this, the only problem I’ve had with your company is that your billing makes my life hell sometimes.

  11. Wendy Morgan
    Wendy Morgan April 18, 2007 at 11:25 am | | Reply

    So, I am one of the few who jumped on the Minimed Real-time system WITHOUT insurance, but I intend to fight like hell to get this covered.

    I documenting my experiences, the good bad and ugly on my blog, http://www.diabetesselfcare.blogspot.com.

    I was involved in a three month trail for the Freestyle Navigator CGM due to be released by end of this year. I love so many things about the Minimed version, but the Navigator had lots of great features I’d like to see Minimed do as well.

    Regarding cost, the Minimed Minilink transmiter is only good for a year and I was really upset about that at first, but actually it is a blessing. If after one year Minimed doesn’t keep up with the Jones’ regarding technology, I can jump ship to a company who has.

    Regarding the Minimed 722 pump, I don’t hear enough good things about this pump in the blogosphere, but I like it fine. The features offered on other brands are not that useful to me, as I have been pumpinmg for 14 years, and have this all figured out. I like the service I have received, but there are some important things that could be made better with the pump(like alarm sound options, alarms when insulin isn’t being delivered, like when you have primed, but didn’t fix prime).

    I absolutly LOVE the Minilink size, shape and comfort. It was designed for ME and I am so glad I didn’t wit to buy.

  12. Titos
    Titos April 21, 2007 at 5:10 am | | Reply

    Suggest you check out http://www.debiotech.com for the new nanopump planned to debut in 2008 in selected markets. Others are working on similar types of (nano) insulin delivery. The nanopump is far more accurate and safer than anything else on the market and far smaller (20-25% the size of the smallest pump currently available. That is the best design for medical devices -designing them away from view

  13. Angela
    Angela May 20, 2007 at 1:56 pm | | Reply

    My brother (diagnosed at age 12) and I (diagnosed six years ago at age 20) both use Minimed pumps, and both of us are happy with them. I try to minimize the intrusiveness of my disease, so I’m not interested in a lot of fancy alarms and features.

    I learned about the new MiniLink I think the same day MM offered it on their website, and I was the first one in western NH to order one, even though I did have to pay cash. I had much more difficulty adjusting to it than I ever did with the pump. The insertion needle is insanely huge, the tape doesn’t extend all the way around the sensor so it keeps loosening and twisting off, etc. but I’m starting to get the hang of it now.

    Despite my frustrations, the results have been pretty darn amazing. After three years of high morning readings (and three years of up-all-night sessions to try and figure out what was going on), I isolated and fixed two consistent overnight spikes within ten days. Six weeks after I began use, my fasting blood sugars are almost flat-lining. My last six-day average was 110 mg/dL, and during that same period my blood sugar was between 70 and 140 78% of the time. Pretty darn amazing.

    They say the transmitter only lasts a year, but I’ve been told unofficially that with proper care it can last two or more. Also, the sensors are officially approved for three days of use, but they’re working on FDA approval for six. I use mine for six, then leave it off for one day and let the transmitter charge. At that rate I use four per month, at $35/each is $140/month. Worth it to me.

    I’ve documented my progress thus far, and will be launching a fight with my insurance company for reimbursement/continued coverage this week. I figure that even if they refuse me again, at least my packet of paperwork will add to the weight of the mountain they’ll be fighting against soon….

  14. Bryan
    Bryan July 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm | | Reply

    Has anyone who has the Paradigm Link (The one that sends blood sugar readings to the Mini-Med pump wirelessly), had any problems with it not transmitting to the pump? We have had 3 of these and all 3 of them have eventually just quit transmitting the bs data to the pump? I’m beginning to think it’s not a problem, but a setting on either the pump or the meter gets changed somehow.Also, we have found that the Paradigm Link is very inaccurate if you compare it to another meter of the same model. It is sometimes 70 – 80 points different. When testing it with control solution it sometimes reads 100 – 150 points higher than normal (100-120 range is normal). Any feedback on this model would be greatly appreciated.
    View & subscribe to my juvenile diabetes blog by visiting http://www.juvenile-diabetes-stories.blogspot.com

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