For anyone taking long-acting and short-acting (pre-meal) insulin, an insulin pump offers freedom from all of the hassle of injections.
If you decide to eat a little more, or do some unexpected exercise, you can just push a button to administer more or less insulin. And the pump’s continuous background drip of insulin mimics the action of a healthy pancreas, so your blood sugar levels can remain much steadier.
Note that an insulin pump is NOT an artificial pancreas or a fully automated cure for diabetes. The person wearing it still has to decide how much insulin they need and when they need it. This makes the user the most important part of the pump.
But no worries – modern pumps are very intuitive and easy to use. And there’s no age limit on using a pump; they are used by infants, all the way up to senior citizens.
Here are our reviews of some of the existing insulin pumps available here in the United States (in alphabetical order):
OneTouch Ping Insulin Pump (combo with glucose meter)
A combination of the Animas 2020 insulin pump and OneTouch glucose (fingerstick) meter that talk to each other wirelessly. This means you can actually control the pump right from the glucose meter — setting basal rates and bolus insulin doses — without ever having to "pull the pump off your hip."
Animas Vibe Insulin Pump (combo with continuous glucose monitor)
New! Just approved by the FDA in November 2014 and available to customers in early 2015, this is a combination of the Animas insulin pump and the popular Dexcom G4 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. The CGM data is displayed directly on the insulin pump’s screen, so there's no need to carry a separate receiver.
Asante Snap Insulin Pump
(no longer available)
This was a unique full-featured insulin pump that used pre-filled insulin cartridges and offered easy autopriming with a "snap-on" set change design. NOTE: This product has been discontinued as of May 2015, after Asante Solutions went out of business.
Minimed 670G Hybrid Closed Loop System (combo with CGM and closed loop capability)
This combo-device just approved by the FDA in September 2016 will soon become the first "pre Artificial Pancreas" to hit market. It monitors glucose using Medtronic's new Guardian 3 CGM sensor and automatically adjusts basal insulin to keep users as close as possible to the target blood sugar level of 120 mg/dL.
It has the ability to predictively alert users to impending low blood sugars, and can adjust insulin accordingly or shut off background insulin if the user reaches a low threshold. It's called a "hybrid" closed loop because it automates many aspects of care, but does not take over glucose cmpletely as is expected from a full Artificial Pancreas.
670G should begin shipping in the U.S. in Spring 2017, followed by an international launch in mid-2017.
Minimed 630G (combo with CGM)
This device gives the traditional Minimed pumps a whole new look, with a vertical orientation instead of horizontal. It also has a color screen and is labeled as waterproof in some situations. It communicates with a Contour Next Link 2.4 glucose meter for fingersticks, and also monitors glucose through an Enlite CGM sensor.
Minimed 530G Insulin Pump (combo with CGM)
An insulin pump integrated with Medtronic’s own continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and the first to offer the “Threshold Suspend" feature that automatically suspends insulin delivery when your blood glucose level dips too low.
MiniMed Paradigm Revel Insulin Pump (combo with CGM & glucose meter)
Medtronic’s original sensor-augmented pump, with built-in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) that offers round-the-clock glucose monitoring. This pump, available in models 523 and 723 depeding on how large you want the reservoir, also connects wirelessly to a Bayer Contour Link blood glucose meter.
OmniPod Tubeless Insulin Pump (with built-in glucose meter)
The only full-featured tubeless insulin pump on the market. Insulin is delivered via a small pod attached adhered your skin, that’s controlled by the PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) – which also has a convenient, built-in FreeStyle blood glucose meter.
Roche Accu-Chek Combo Insulin Pump
In the review here, we compare the 2012-approved Accu-Chek insulin pump to its competitior Animas Ping, which also communicates wirelessly with a blood glucose meter and allows users to use the meter like a remote control to command the pump and dose insulin.
Tandem t:slim Insulin Pump
A sleek Apple-esque insulin pump with color touchscreen. It measures just 2 x 3 inches, so fits easily in your pocket.
Tandem t:flex Insulin Pump (expanded size)
Just approved by the FDA in January 2015, this insulin pump has been on the market since May 2015. Its design is identical to the original t:slim pump with touchscreen, but it has an expanded cartridge to hold 480 units of insulin compared to the t:slim's 300 units.
This is the next-generation of the Tandem t:slim, and it's considered the company's future platform for future insulin pumps developments. The FDA approved this is July 2016 and it's expected to be available by the end of the year.
Valeritas V-Go Patch Pump
A disposable “patch pump” aimed mainly at people with type 2 diabetes. It holds one day's worth of fast-acting insulin, and is pre-set to deliver one of three fixed basal (background insulin) rates for the day.
What do you think of these insulin pumps? Let us know in the comments below!