The development of automated insulin delivery has many names – artificial pancreas, hybrid closed loop, Bionic Pancreas, predictive low glucose suspend – but all share the same goal: using continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and smart algorithms that decide how much insulin to deliver via pump. The goal of these products is to reduce/eliminate hypoglycemia, improve time-in-range, and reduce hyperglycemia – especially overnight.
See below for an overview of the automated insulin delivery field, focused on companies working to get products approved. Do-it-yourself automated insulin delivery systems like OpenAPS and Loop are not included here, though they are currently available and used by a growing number of motivated, curious users.
We’ve also included helpful links to articles on specific product and research updates, as well as some key questions.
Who is Closing the Loop and How Fast Are They Moving?
Below we include a list of organizations working to bring automated insulin delivery products to market – this includes their most recently announced public plans for pivotal studies, FDA submissions, and commercial launch. The organizations are ordered from shortest to longest time to a pivotal study, though these are subject to change. This list excludes those without a commercial path to market (e.g., academic groups).
Key Questions for the Artificial Pancreas
Are patient expectations too high? If we expect too much out of first-generation artificial pancreas systems – e.g., “I don’t have to do anything to get a 6.5% A1c with no hypoglycemia” – we might be disappointed. Like any new product, early versions of the artificial pancreas are going to have their glitches and shortcomings. Undoubtedly, things will improve markedly over time as algorithms advance, devices get more accurate and smaller, insulin gets faster, infusion sets improve, and we all get more experience with automated insulin delivery. But it takes patience and persistence to weather the early generations to get to the truly breakthrough products. We would not have today’s small insulin pumps without the first backpack-sized insulin pump; we would not have today’s CGM without the Dexcom STS, Medtronic Gold, and GlucoWatch; we would not be walking around with smartphones were it not for the first brick-sized cellphones. Our research trial experience with automated insulin delivery recalibrated our expectations a bit – these systems are going to be an absolutely terrific advance for many patients, but they will not replace everything out of the gate. Let’s all remember that devices need to walk first, then run, and it’s okay if the first systems are more conservative from a safety perspective.
What fraction of patients will be willing to wear some type of automated insulin delivery system? Right now, many estimate that ~30% of US type 1’s wear a pump, and about 15% to 20% wear CGM. There are a lot of reasons why that may be the case, including cost, hassle, no perceived benefit, no desire to switch from current therapy, wearing a device on the body, alarm fatigue, etc. Will automated insulin delivery address enough of these challenges to expand the market?
Will healthcare providers embrace automated insulin delivery? Today, healthcare providers lose money when they prescribe pumps and CGM – they are very time consuming to train, prescribe, and obtain reimbursement for. We need to make sure that automated insulin delivery systems make providers’ lives easier, not more complicated.
Will there be a thriving commercial environment and reimbursement? It’s extremely expensive to develop and test closed-loop systems, and companies will only develop them if there is a commercial environment that supports a reasonable business. Reimbursement is a major part of that, and it’s hard to know if insurance companies will pay for closed-loop systems for a wide population of patients. We are optimistic that reimbursement will be there, especially if systems can simultaneously lower A1c, reduce hypoglycemia, and improve time-in-range.
What’s the right balance between automation and human manual input? The holy grail is a fully-automated, reactive closed loop that requires no meal or exercise input. But insulin needs to get faster to make that a reality. For now, daytime systems need to deal with balancing human input with automation, and there’s an associated patient learning curve. How much should automated insulin delivery systems ask patients to do? How do we ensure patients do not forget how to manage their diabetes (“de-skilling”) as systems grow in their automation abilities?
Insulin-only or insulin+glucagon? Ultimately, we believe that the question is partially one of patient preferences. There will be some patients who may want the extra glycemic control offered by the dual-hormone approach and will be willing to accept a bit more risk or a more aggressive algorithm. An insulin+glucagon system could be helpful for those with hypoglycemia unawareness, and if such a system makes it to the market, some patients will certainly want to give it a try. We believe a range of options is a good thing for people with diabetes, since all systems and products have pros and cons. Ultimately, cost considerations may present the largest factor in adoption. An insulin+glucagon system certainly brings multiple cost elements to consider – a second hormone, a dual-chambered pump, custom infusion sets, potentially higher training, etc. It’s hard to know at this point how the relative costs/benefits will exactly compare to insulin-only systems.
Originally published at diaTribe
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