The Benefits of Insulin Pumps

Insulin pumps may improve blood sugar control in children, teens with type 1 diabetes

(RxWiki News) Parents of kids with type 1 diabetes may now have an easier time with the debate surrounding the insulin pump.

A new study found that insulin pump use among children and teens with type 1 diabetes may have contributed to overall improvements in blood sugar control in recent years.

"As science and technology move closer to a mechanical solution to the problems of managing children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes, it will be even more important to ensure that our pediatric patients have access to such treatment advancements," wrote lead study author Jennifer L. Sherr, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues.

John P. Calvillo, PharmD, director of pharmacy for CentRx Pharmacy at McAllen Medical Center in Texas, told RxWiki News that insulin pumps can also improve patients' quality of life.

"The main benefit for patients with type 1 diabetes is fewer injections and a happier way of life," Dr. Calvillo, who was not involved in the current study, said. "If you can imagine injecting yourself three, six or even eight times a day, on top of pricking your finger multiple times. Anything that helps a type 1 [diabetes] patient reduce this painful experience ultimately leads to a happier way of life and a more compliant patient."

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to move sugar from the blood into the body’s cells, where it can then be used for energy. Only 5 percent of patients with diabetes have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Insulin pumps deliver the insulin the body needs 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin. While these devices have been used to treat type 1 diabetes for about 35 years, their use has only become widespread in the last 15. For children and teens without a pump, multiple daily injections of insulin remain the standard treatment for type 1 diabetes.

In 2007, a statement from the world's leading pediatric diabetes experts recommended that insulin pump therapy be considered for the majority of children and teens with type 1 diabetes. In spite of this recommendation, pump use remains varied among Western countries.

For this study, Dr. Sherr and colleagues compared data from three large studies on children and teens with type 1 diabetes: the German/Austrian Prospective Diabetes Follow-up Registry (DPV), the US T1D Exchange (T1DX) and the English/Welsh National Pediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA). These studies included a total of nearly 55,000 patients.

These researchers found that patients' average HbA1c levels were higher in the NPDA (8.9 percent) than in both the DPV (8 percent) and the T1DX (8.3 percent). High levels of HbA1c are linked to poor blood sugar control.

Conversely, insulin pump use was much lower in the NPDA (14 percent) than in the DPV (41 percent) and the T1DX (47 percent).

According to Dr. Sherr and colleagues, these findings suggest that insulin pump use is linked to better blood sugar control among children and teens with type 1 diabetes.

This study was published Nov. 9 in the journal Diabetologia.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the German BMBF Competence Network Diabetes Mellitus and the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health funded this research.

Review Date: 
November 10, 2015