Diabetes Health magazine recently published an exposÃ© about the implantable insulin pump that Medtronic has been developing in Europe for over 20 years. The story quotes four passionate users and implies that Medtronic is dumping this phenomenal technology for lowly business reasons (not sniffing enough profit in the air?)
A few of the dozens of commenters defended Medtronic by pointing out the holdup at FDA, not only on the new pump technology itself, but also on the special concentrated insulin necessary for this system.
Dr. Fran Kaufman, Medtronic's Chief Medical Officer, replied at the company's new blog:
"The implantable pump is a complex device that requires meticulous attention and care, refilling and readjusting, and is — in its present form — difficult to adopt. That's why we're working on making the pump smaller, the surgery less invasive and the refill procedure less frequent and invasive. Just as importantly, Sanofi-Aventis is working hard with us to continue to innovate the insulin preparation that can be used in the implanted pump — with the optimal concentration, and stability to be used at body temperature."
Clearly, there's a storm of controversy brewing here: is Big Bad Pharma thwarting the best solutions for PWDs because it doesn't want to cannibalize profits on its existing systems? Has FDA totally gone down the toilet with regard to reasonable consideration of revolutionary new technology? We're not even going to try to answer those questions.
Where I'm going with this is a little more personal, as in: would I really be willing to have a new-fangled pump gadget surgically implanted in my body? I don't know... My first reaction is eww.
A research firm that queried me recently about the pump market — ironically right before the DH story hit — actually asked me this question: Are US patients "holding out" for the implantable pump? Will they flock to it, if and when it becomes available here? (not to mention affordable)
I was surprised by how many people commenting on the DH story seemed so gung-ho. Apparently, once you get the thing surgically inserted, under full anesthesia, you just have to visit the clinic four times a year for a 15-minute insulin refill process. According to MedicineNet, an implantable pump can continue working in your body for an average of 8 years, but of course it has to be surgically "explanted" in case something really goes wrong. Early problems included difficulties with implantation procedures and post-surgery follow-up care to prevent infection, and issues with the catheter technology. Eww.
I am so prone to infections! And I can't help thinking of a dozen other things that could go wrong...
So I ask you, My Friends, if someone offered you the chance to have Medtronic's implantable insulin pump put into you tomorrow, what would you say?
(You can also write up your reaction in comments, of course)