New diabetes technology is a game changer

Australian diabetes patients will have access to a new, Australian first device that works like an artificial pancreas.

Developed in consultation with patients and clinicians from around the world including St Vincent’s, the hybrid closed loop insulin pump system automatically adjusts to deliver people living with type 1 diabetes precise amounts of insulin when they need it – a function usually performed by the pancreas.

The Medtronic MiniMedTM 670G system is Australian’s first and only approved insulin pump system that automatically adjusts to the real-time insulin needs of people living with T1D to help stabilise glucose levels with fewer highs and lows.

Availability of the device in Australia has been welcomed by the JDRF and Diabetes Australia.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Endocrinologist Professor David O’Neal says the new device is a ‘game changer’ and will dramatically change the lives of the 120,000 Australians who have type 1 diabetes.

‘While the new device does not represent a cure for diabetes, it does have the potential to significantly improve control of glucose levels, reducing damage to the body resulting from unstable glucose levels and improving the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes.’

The most advanced diabetes technology in the world, which automatically adjusts to deliver people living with type 1 diabetes precise amounts of insulin when they need it– is available for the first time in Australia.

The world first hybrid closed loop insulin pump system, called the Medtronic MiniMed TM 670G, works like an artificial pancreas, continuously monitoring blood glucose levels and automatically adjusting delivery of insulin to keep glucose levels stable in a healthy range. It is a long-awaited breakthrough in the Australian diabetes community in their quest to better manage the chronic disease.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that converts sugar into usable energy. It can impact both children and adults at any age and has a significant negative impact on quality of life.

A sensor is inserted under the skin and monitors glucose levels, sending the data to the pump every five minutes. The system then calculates the amount of insulin needed and automatically delivers it, based on the glucose sensor readings. As a result, the technology requires minimal input. People with type 1 diabetes only need to enter mealtime carbohydrates, accept bolus correction recommendations and periodically calibrate the sensor.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Endocrinologist Professor David O’Neal, who was one of the first Australian researchers to trial the device on local patients, says the new device is a ‘game changer’.

‘The goal in treating type 1 diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible which can be difficult to achieve,’ Professor O’Neal says. ‘A measured, constant supply of insulin is required because it is no longer being produced by the pancreas.

‘While the new device does not represent a cure for diabetes, it does have the potential to significantly improve control of glucose levels, reducing damage to the body resulting from unstable glucose levels and improving the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes.’

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said this new technology could help to ease the day-to-day challenges for 120,000 Australians with type 1 diabetes.

‘Type 1 diabetes is relentless,’ Prof Johnson says. ‘It often requires multiple daily calculation, measurement and administration of insulin to account for changing carbohydrate intake and other factors. It can be very difficult and intrusive in people’s lives.’

‘This hybrid closed loop system is the first approved device in Australia to help automate the management of both potentially harmful ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in blood glucose levels.’

Leanne Foster is the first Australian to be fitted with this commercial device. Leanne, 48, who has had type 1 diabetes for 37 years, was previously fitted with a trial version of the device. She says the system has meant her blood sugar was not dropping low, and she was experiencing less ‘brain fog’.

‘For me the big bonus was that I slept restfully through the night so I woke up refreshed and able to be my ‘best’ me,’ Leanne says. ‘This device means I spend less time thinking about my diabetes and less time responding to, and recovering from, highs and lows.

‘I’m clear headed during the day and can go about my daily activity without having to factor in diabetes to every activity.’

‘Technological advances have always been an important element in improving the management of type 1 diabetes, says Mike Wilson, JDRF CEO. ‘JDRF welcomes the availability of new technologies such as this system.’

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