Glucose Monitoring for All?

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Until now, continuous glucose monitoring has been considered an advanced option for the treatment of diabetes. Most people with diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, don’t wear continuous glucose monitors, and to get insurance coverage for them, most people must demonstrate that they have a troublesome history of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). It’s safe to assume that many people with diabetes are interested in continuous glucose monitoring, but couldn’t afford to pay for it themselves and wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to get it covered.

But a new company aims to bypass the diabetes population and build a continuous glucose monitor for a larger, more lucrative market: the general population. Glucovation, a company founded in May 2013, has plans to market a continuous glucose monitor to athletes, people trying to lose weight, and other health-conscious people. According to an article at MobiHealthNews, the company has developed a minimally invasive sensor that will wirelessly communicate with other devices — a smartphone, “smartwatch,” or activity-tracking device — and transmit the wearer’s glucose level every five minutes. This stands in contrast with the current crop of continuous glucose monitors, which come with dedicated receivers that must be kept within range of the worn sensor (in the case of Medtronic’s MiniMed devices, that receiver is also an insulin pump). The data is stored locally or, with a paid subscription, on the company’s Internet server and can be analyzed later by users, doctors, or dietitians so that adjustments to diet or physical activity can be made.

All three cofounders of Glucovation are former employees of Dexcom, which, along with Medtronic, is a major manufacturer of continuous glucose monitoring systems. As noted in the MobiHealthNews article, one of the major barriers to wider use of continuous glucose monitoring technology outside of diabetes, according to Glucovation’s founders, was the need to calibrate monitors with standard (fingerprick) blood glucose tests. Glucovation’s sensor does away with this requirement, which means that two electronic devices currently needed for continuous glucose monitoring — a blood glucose meter and a continuous glucose monitor receiver — will be unnecessary.

A downside to this simplicity, however, is that without calibration, glucose readings may be less accurate. (Since Glucovation’s product is still in early development, no accuracy data are available.) This may matter less to people without diabetes, who don’t care about being warned of impending hypoglycemia. And it’s possible, of course, that if continuous glucose monitoring catches on among people without diabetes, sensor technology will develop at a faster pace that benefits people with diabetes, as well, possibly leading — someday — to a sensor that can replace standard blood glucose tests.

Are you excited that continuous glucose monitors are being developed for people without diabetes, or do you wish that technology would be tailored to those who need it most? Would you pay out-of-pocket to wear a monitor like the one planned by Glucovation? Do you think there’s a danger that some people with diabetes might stop using their more accurate regular meter if continuous monitors became easily accessible? Leave a comment below!

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