Using a smart insulin pen — an insulin pen with an electronic component that can help calculate insulin doses and give reminders if someone misses a dose — helped people with less-than-optimal blood glucose numbers achieve better control, according to a study presented at the 81st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and reported in a Healio article.
The study’s participants were 423 adults and adolescents who used a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system for at least 30 days before the start of the study, as well as during the study. All participants had an estimated A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) of 8% or higher at the beginning of the study, with this estimate based on CGM data from the previous 30 days. All participants used a smart insulin pen for 90 days, so the potential benefits were assessed by comparing with participants’ previous glucose control, rather than by comparing one group against another.
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Smart insulin pen linked to improved glucose control
After 90 days of using a smart pen, participants saw an estimated 0.1% reduction in estimated A1C level. The average amount of time spent within a target glucose range increased from 31.1% to 33.4%, and the amount of time spent above the target range dropped from 67.9% to 65.5%. The average CGM reading dropped by 4.3 mg/dl compared with before starting to use the smart pen.
Given how modest the overall glucose reductions were, the effects seen in 103 participants who started with an estimated A1c level of 9.5% or higher may be more important. This group saw a 5.0% increase in time spent within the target glucose range, and a 5.1% reduction in time spent above this range. They also saw an average drop in CGM readings of 14.9 mg/dl.
These improvements in glucose control appear to have been achieved by taking more insulin, although not by taking it more often. The average number of insulin doses taken per day dropped by an average of 0.1% after 90 days of using the smart pen, while the average amount of insulin taken daily increased by 0.9 units. For participants who started with an estimated A1C level of 9.5% or higher, the average number of daily insulin doses also dropped by 0.1%, while the average amount of insulin taken daily increased by 1.7 units. These results suggest that the main benefit of using a smart insulin pen was better calculation of insulin doses, rather than being reminded to take an insulin dose after forgetting.
The study’s authors noted that smart insulin pens may be a good option for people with diabetes whose blood glucose control needs improvement, but who are hesitant to wear an insulin pump. It’s unclear how the combination of a CGM system and a smart insulin pen compares with an insulin pump when it comes to improved glucose control — future studies may shed light on how these two treatment strategies stack up against each other.
Want to learn more about blood glucose management? See our “Blood Sugar Chart,” then read “Blood Sugar Monitoring: When to Check and Why” and “Strike the Spike II: How to Manage High Blood Glucose After Meals.”