Diabetes seems to always be making headlines in one form or another, no? Of course we live and breathe this stuff here at the 'Mine -- evaluating that coverage from a patient-in-the-trenches POV.
As we head into this final weekend of January 2018, here are a dozen interesting items that have been on our radar:
Research Funding, Yo: Anything related to Congress is always a politically-divisive topic these days -- even before the Government Shutdown of January 2018 that's gobbled up news attention recently. As Congress continues debating what the federal government's financial puzzle will look like, diabetes research funding remains in jeopardy. The Special Diabetes Program (SPD) that's been around since 1997 and provided millions of dollars to support big and small D-research, and amounts to roughly a third of the JDRF's funding, has been largely ignored. This #RenewSDP campaign is a big advocacy push for the JDRF and ADA right now, especially with dozens of past and current ADA leaders calling Congress out on this, and we're hoping to see lawmakers include a SDP Renewal in budget proposals.
Former Lilly Exec to Lead Government Agency: On Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Alex Azar to lead the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, a.k.a. the division that oversees the FDA along with Medicare and Medicaid. Many in our D-Community opposed his nomination, given that Azar was president of Eli Lilly for a decade during the time the Pharma Giant saw outrageous skyrocketing insulin prices. In a time when high drug prices are top of mind for many and Congress is pressing hard on this issue, we're really hoping that Azar's insider knowledge of the Pharma world can be used for good to help deal with this crisis. We're also guessing that's the rationale for Sen. Joe Donnelly from Indiana, one of the Democrats who voted to confirm Azar and who happens to have an adult son living with T1D. We shall see.
Oh, Insulin Prices... This past week marked the historical anniversary of when the very first patient, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson, received insulin therapy way back in 1922. Flash forward to the modern day, when insulin prices are so sky high that many can't access or afford this life-sustaining medication. A Harvard Political Review piece on How Insulin Became Unaffordable has been making the rounds, covering many of the complicated reasons that have led to where we are now. It's great to see lots of grassroots advocacy happening on this front, and we received word that an #insulin4all meetup in New York City is planned for Feb. 8, arranged by the UK-based non-profit T1international to talk strategy and what's next.
No Hypo Fun, Your Honor: We were bummed to see news reports that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a longtime type 1 since childhood, experienced a bad hypo recently. That led to the paramedics being called to her apartment, but reports note that she was not hospitalized after paramedics treated her Low. And it didn't stop her from returning to work that very day and doing her job! Though many of us fellow PWDs who've experienced paramedic-requiring hypos know they're usually followed by not-so-good feelings long afterward. Sending vibes to Justice Sotomayor.
Milk, Gluten and Diabetes: Conflicting research reports leave a lot of unknowns on the questions of whether milk and gluten consumption early on plays any part in later T1D development. An NIH research bulletin recently addressed the infant formula issue, expanding on earlier news about a Finland study showing cow's milk does not increase the risk of T1D. Meanwhile, a different international study conducted in Finland/Germany/Sweden/USA shows that introducing gluten into the diets of infants later on may increase the risk of T1D. None of these research indications are guaranteed to show direct cause and effect, and it's all a bit confusing given different scientists find varying results. Ugh, it's tough keeping all these clinical studies straight, and so often one study contradicts another... In the end, moms and dads who live with T1D or are concerned about risk are left wondering just how baby formulas and gluten-containing foods may impact their little ones.
JnJ Diabetes Buyout?: In the category of diabetes rumor mill, we've seen talk about a Chinese company expressing interest in purchasing the remaining JnJ diabetes divisions. Remember, the Pharma company announced in October it would be shutting down its Animas pump division -- in the USA and Canada late last year, and more recently in Australia, New Zealand and the UK/Ireland. Now, the LifeScan, OneTouch and Calibra divisions could be on the table and acquired by a new consortium being formed by glucose-monitoring company Sinocare Inc. and China Jianyin Investment Ltd. (JIC), for what may be a whopping $3-4 billion (!). None of this is confirmed as yet, but it's certainly something to keep in mind as a possibility that could become a reality before long.
Future Patch Pod: The JDRF is investing in a two-year collaboration with Arkansas-based med-tech company SFC Fluidics, to develop a tubeless patch Pod, a concept that seems similar to what Insulet has now with the OmniPod system. This follows JDRF's interest in closed loop technology, i.e. Automated Insulin Delivery (AID), with this Pod promising a CGM component and algorithm to automate functionality, built into a single Pod that could be disposed of after three days. Not much more detail is out there yet, but you may recall this is the same company that a couple years ago was promising a dual-hormone patch pump... TBD on what this all ends up looking like. While not every JDRF investment materializes into a commercial product, it's exciting to see this kind of R&D -- even if it's potentially years out.
Hello, Smart Sitters! Kudos to OmniPod manufacturer Insulet for creating and publishing a new babysitting-and-diabetes resource -- one that's not solely tied to their OmniPod device, but applies to anyone using any D-device or treatment. A handful of orgs and groups were a part of funding and launching this new Smart Sitters site and PDF guide, offering a whole bunch of useful tips and ideas -- including step-by-step hints on collecting sitter contact info, emergency and other 411 about the family, importantly details on where diabetes supplies/meds are located in one's home and the pertinent info on said items, and specific sitting plans based on the number of hours involved on watching a child with diabetes (CWD).
ADA Responds to 'Cause of Death: Diabetes' Marketing Email: An unfortunate email subject line sparked controversy in our D-Community, when the ADA sent out a blatant fundraising grab using the subject header, "Cause of Death: Diabetes" (ugh!). This caught many off-guard and ruffled feathers, with some folks unsubscribing and others responding that the organization is hypocritical based on its anti-low carb recommendations over the years. The ADA responded and Kerri Sparling at SixUntilMe shared an email response the group sent out, apologizing and saying they've learned a valuable lesson from the situation. Ya think?
Medical Necessity Questioned: Our friend David Lazarus, a fellow type 1 who happens to be a reporter at the LA Times, penned a story on Jan. 23 with the headline, "When your insurer denies a valid claim because of 'lack of medical necessity'." We know this tale well, as do most of us in the D-Community and broader healthcare universe. This "appeal first" mentality by payers, along with the notion of non-medical switching -- in which insurers swap out patients' meds for the cheapest versions -- is a serious one that's getting more attention, and it's something that we all should be concerned about. Thanks, David, for writing about your experience and sharing your story -- though sorry you've had to endure this.
(Another) Glucose-Sensing Contact Lens? This story in The Verge caught our eye (ha!) about Korean researchers developing a non-invasive, glucose-sensing contact lens that monitors your levels via tears... this may sound familiar, as Google tried it and word is that project has pretty much been unofficially scrapped.
International Inspiration: We very much enjoyed reading about a new campaign dubbed "With Diabetes to the Top," which includes a program allowing for kiddos with T1D to climb walls in Sofia, Bulgaria. What impressed us the most was that these weren't hard-core athletes or adventurers, but roughly 30 everyday kids and teens with T1D. This was put on by the National Association of Children and Young People with Diabetes, and included young people ranging in ages from 6 to 18. While he wasn't the focus, world-renowned Bulgarian altitude climber Boyan Petrov (who lives with T1D himself) was a part of this, offering a "You Can Do This!" message to those involved.
What about you, Diabetes Community? Let us know if you have any thoughts on these recent news items, or if any other headlines or reports stand out that you'd like to share.