As you may know, our correspondent Wil Dubois was on the ground in Orlando, FL, covering the big annual American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) meeting for us last week.
Check out his first Newsflash on Asante and Insulet stuff from last Friday. And now, we bring you his full report of product news from the trade show floor...
It must have been the heat and humidity. After all, AADE chose to host their annual gathering in Orlando, FL. In August. What else could cause a diabetes trade show to shrink? With an exhibitor count just below 200, the number of firms showing this year was a full one-third smaller than last year, and the exhibit hall shrinkage didn't stop there. Many of the major players opted for smaller booths and staffed them with smaller crews.
Not only was the trade show smaller than in previous years, but it got smaller during the three short days it ran, with more than a dozen vendors pulling up stakes early and abandoning their booths completely after the second day, complaining that they did not feel the schedule provided attending educators (roughly 2,500) with enough unopposed time to visit the expo.
As usual, the vendors were a mix of large and small device and accessory firms, pharmaceutical companies, and food makers, with a few oddball companies rounding out the roster. Clearly there was still no attempt by the AADE to vet the vendors; as snake oil salesmen were placed right next door to major pharmaceutical companies.
Talk about guerrilla marketing: the biggest buzz on the trade show floor this year was from a company that had no apparent presence at all (no booth!): Asante Solutions, maker of the Snap insulin pump. Asante assaulted attendees with a Blitzkrieg of entertainment and exciting news about its integration partnerships on open data, and on the trade show floor they were handing out an amazing brochure that featured a full-color touch-screen video player, along with bags, water bottles, leather-clad journal books, and a home-improvement-style color swatch book to help PWDs design their own custom pumps.
Yes, that swatch book was tied in with Asante's big product news: the official public launch of MySnap, which we told you about on Friday, that's billed to be "the world's first and only customizable insulin pump" by allowing customers to choose face plates, frames, and accents online, to create a "personalized design" for your pump in more than 250 combinations. Oh, and Asante was the only pump company talking openly about its next-gen product, likely motivated by their big data integration news -- Asante will work with Dexcom so that CGM data can be displayed on the next-gen Snap pump.
All of this without a booth? Wow!
Well, yes and no. Asante had no booth with their name on it, instead choosing to gain access to the trade show by renting one of those small, low-cost stealth booths used for briefing meetings, which they labeled InsulinPump.com -- which turned out to be tied to an Asante-built and supported third-party-looking website that compares insulin pumps and promotes some insulin pump education (including some DOC voices).
This move had some competitors crying foul, but left others grudgingly admiring their moxie. Aside from that whole trade show drama, we did take note of how their educational site lists various pump options but seems to forget about one in particular... nowhere in there is Roche Accu-Chek Spirit or Combo mentioned. Hmmm, interesting.
Meanwhile, the longest lines by far this year were at the HealthSlate booth, where the company once again gave away between 1,400 and 1,600 AADE software-loaded Android touch screen tablet computers to attendees. They also did this last year, obviously with much success. CEO Kevin Nakao walked me through the upgrades from last year's tool, which in his words is an "edutainment and gamification" platform designed for diabetes education. It features a host of videos and animations (in both Spanish and English), as well as a zipcode-driven drug price-look-up feature. The tablet also contains product-specific training videos, an insurance coverage data base, and educational games for educators to use with PWDs (people with diabetes). I especially enjoyed playing with diabetes Jeopardy game: I'll take Glucose Monitoring for $400, Alex...
Timesulin was there with its big launch news, having recently received FDA approval for their automatic pen-cap timer for disposable pens and closing a USA distribution agreement with a company called Facet Technologies... Who? Yeah, I never heard of them either, but apparently I've been using their products for my entire diabetic career, as they are the world's leading maker of lancing needles. Timesulin co-inventor John SjÃ¶lund, a fellow type 1, assures that everyone who backed the recent crowdfunding campaign for Timesulin will still be the first to receive the caps, likely in mid-September. Facet will be selling caps for the Flex, Touch, Kwik, and Solostar pens for just under $30 each. Sadly, due to an airline mix-up, a box of 200 Timesulin caps didn't make it to the show so I can't report on what it's like to really use this poor man's insulin-on-board (IOB) calculator.
Facet wasn't just there re: partnership with Timesulin. Yes, the two shared the same booth. But the lancing and needle company also announced its new consumer brand called CareFine, which are even shorter and smaller needle-tips you can use on insulin or other injectable med pens.
Rest of the... Same?
Roche showed off their new Accu-Chek Aviva Expert meter, the first blood glucose meter in the States with an "insulin pump brain" -- complete with insulin on board tracking and a bolus advisor -- for those of us who use pens or syringes. This meter got FDA approval in October 2013 and hit the market earlier this year. I gotta say, I'm pretty excited about this meter and spent quite a bit of time playing with it, but I'm not going discuss it further, as I've arranged for a field test and review, so look for that next month right here at the 'Mine. Aside from that, Roche didn't mention anything about its new Accu-Chek Insight pump that's now available overseas, or any future tech for the U.S. aside from its current Accu-Chek Combo insulin pump system (yes, lest we forget: Roche Accu-Chek actually does still have an insulin pump on the market even if the marketing isn't up to par with the biggies).
OmniPod-maker Insulet was present, pushing their "Cut the Cord" program to help tethered pump users who want to make the switch before the warranty on their current, tubed pump runs out. While they didn't have anything new to show off regarding next-gen Pods or the much-anticipated nexxt-gen Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM) that will integrate with future Dexcom G5 data, Insulet did have an awesome visual aid in the form of a clear current-gen Pod showing the machine's guts. I tried to score one and failed, then I tried to swipe one and failed again. Damn. It would be a really cool paperweight and conversation starter.
Dexcom and Medtronic both had booths, but didn't have anything really new to show off. MedT did have a larger booth with various presentations, one of them offering an intriguing data point: that their Threshold/Low Glucose Suspend pumps uploaded to CareLink have stopped a whopping 620,165 hypos.
The T2 patch pump company Valeritas was there talking about its V-Go pump, which is now hooked up to 12,000 active users and has racked up 2.5 million patient days. Wow!
BD also had a large booth showcasing their AutoShieldâ„¢ Duo Pen Needle. The needle isn't new, but the fact that you can go out and buy it as a consumer is. The AutoShield was originally designed as an "engineering safeguard" to reduce unwanted needle sticks in hospitals, a trick it achieves by pulling both ends of the needle back into the casing after an injection is given, sorta like a startled turtle. Why move a product like this into retail?
Attiq Amjad, product manager for AutoShield, tells me it was because BD was bombarded by requests for it from PWDs. According to Amjad, some PWDs want the device because you can't see the needle, others because it can serve as a temporary sharps container, still others because it reduces the risk of needles sticks common in recapping a used needle, and lastly — as it's larger in diameter and longer — many PWDs with dexterity problems find it easier to attach than a traditional pen needle. Docs love it too, he says, because since it's a one-shot device, those lazy diabetics are forced to change the needle each time they use it. I'm betting the BD shareholders will love it for the same reason. I scored a half-dozen of these and found them a perfectly pleasant needle to use, but I confess I'm one of those non-complaint diabetics who uses a needle all day long and hates to carry extra supplies with me, so I'll stick with over-using their Nano needles.
Tandem was there giving out those metal tins designed to look like their t:slim pump that debuted at the summer conferences a couple of years ago -- the ones containing six Glucolift tabs inside, in Orange Cream and Cherry flavors. Lines formed and perpetually packed the booth largely to see real-life celeb, former Miss America 1999 and type 1 Dr. Nicole Johnson, who was signing copies of her new book, "Young Adult Type 1 Diabetes Realities." Nicole, who brought her hypo dog along with her, also had three scientific posters accepted in the Poster Presentations portion of the conference. Oddly, although Tandem recently announced they'd filed their integrated t:slim/ Dexcom G4 with the FDA, there was no sign of that excitement at the booth except for maybe a little side conversation among sales reps making their pitches.
Meanwhile, Animas had a huge barrel of stuffed animals they were giving away. The booth crew told me they weren't sure if the cuddly little critter was a fox or a coyote. Trust me on this, it's a fox. Not mangy enough to be a coyote, and the color is definitely that foxy red-orange. The connection to diabetes? On the fox's right hip is an infusion set test site for training. It was so cute that I grabbed one and then texted my wife that I picked up a real fox at the convention center and was taking her back to my hotel room with me. Not being a complete idiot, I also attached a picture of my new companion. :)
Although refusing to talk to media at their booth, GSK is back in the diabetes space in a big way for the first time since the Avandia debacle a few years ago. They had one of the larger booths in the hall, and were officially launching their new GLP-1 drug Tanzeum. While some critics are calling the this drug a "me-too" to compete with Byetta and Victoza, I'm not sure I agree. It's really engineered to take on Bydureon, the once-a-week version of Byetta, and I think GSK might do well on the basis of the delivery system alone; Bydureon is about as thick as maple syrup and uses a frighteningly large needle, while the new GSK product Tanzeum uses an EpiPen-style injector with a standard pen needle rather than a harpoon.
The ladies at carry-case company Myabetic announced that next month their popular Banting Wallet will be available in purple and pink colors. When I told them I thought it looked a bit purse-like to me, they told me that actually more men than women choose the Banting. Um... so why roll it out in pink? Additionally, most Myabetic products will now feature the popular "waste pouch" for used test strips -- a gift, I'm told, for our loved ones.
Edible Diabetes Arrangements
Level Foods also debuted its new flavor of glucose gel: Green Apple! I scored one, but haven't had a low yet to try it out on. Inventor and T1 peep Ethan Lewis told me this was the flavor that our community voted on and chose last year (Chocolate Cherry apparently lost). When I mentioned to Ethan how surprised I was by the durability of his fragile-looking pouches, he told me that during initial testing he ran them over with a Harley 883 Iron motorcycle to make sure they were tough enough. Now that's my kind of dedication to product testing!
Livliga founder Shelia Dietrich doesn't have diabetes yet, and despite my telling her there was still time, she has no plans to join us. She's trying to duck her father's type 2, and has managed to lose 60 pounds using her innovative "visual illusion" plates, bowls, and glasses, which use graphic design to trick the eye into thinking the food on the plate is a larger portion than it is. Or putting it another way, making a proper portion not look small to people who once were super-sized. (Although her "proper portion" wine glass isn't fooling me.) There were several booths featuring portion-control plates of various types, but I liked Dietrich's best because they are actually attractive. She told me her original prototype, made for her own diet, was made at one of those U-Fire-It pottery studios. Since that time she's done more research and shifted her tableware into cooler colors that are said to suppress appetite. I had such a busy day I was running on empty and staring at the empty plate did nothing to take my hunger away, but she seems sincere, and I certainly would not be embarrassed to serve company on these plates.
But my hunger got satiated at the nearby Beanitos booth, where I tried six types of chips and two Cheetos-like puffs — only thinking of you, Dear Readers — and can report that while they are all very yummy, the black-bean chipotle BBQ rocks the house... er... the convention hall. The Texas-based product line is gluten-fee, GMO-free, MSG-free, trans fat-free, preservative-free, cholesterol-free—but still full of flavor. How did they do that?? Beanitos products are also Kosher and Vegan, but best of all (beyond the great taste) is that they are very blood sugar-friendly, at least for a chip-type product, with low glycemic index and high fiber giving them a net carb impact, on average, of about 10 grams per serving.
Captain Jack Sparrow, or a convincing non-celebrity look-alike, was at the booth of controversial dietary supplement makers CinSulin. When I told the staff I was having a hard time grasping the link between diabetes and the Pirates of the Caribbean (and the gold chocolate coins they were giving out by the handful) I was told it was an "Orlando thing." When I continued to look blank, they said, "You know, Universal Studios?" Ohhhh.... Capt'n Jack later lost his cell phone and complained to me that his magic compass was broken, as it wasn't pointing its way to his greatest desire — his flippin' lost cell phone. Actually, he might have used harsher language, as befits a pirate captain. Many educators lined up and took selfies with the would-be celeb, of course. Other foodie booths seen at AADE: Dr. Pepper and Snapple; ConAgra, makers of Lean Cuisine, the Nestle Crunch bar and Strawberry Quick; General Mills, giving out boxes of Cheerios and Yoplait yogurt; the Peanut Institute, featured alongside FitBit; and — wait for it -- the Sugar Association (!)
Diabetes and Your Body
It was great to see LifeTag, a "not new, but often overlooked" little biz that makes little stick-on medical alert plaques that can be put on anything from driver's licenses to the face of a smart phone. (Don't freak out, they are small and well-made.) This year, they also had an alert plaque that can be worn on tennis shoe laces for kiddos, and medical alert zipper pulls.
A company called HiDow was featuring a mini TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation that usese electrical currents to relieve pain) that is very small, very thin, very light, and fully rechargeable with a duration said to be in the 60-70 hour range. It features various pre-programed modes, some lovely, and some that felt like I was having some sort of muscle spasm or a seizure. Fans of TENS units will recognize this as a good thing, because it shows this guy may be little, but it packs a punch! They also had a TENS sandal accessory, and I wondered if this might provide some relief for people who suffer from the painful foot variety of neuropathy.
Cool, Notable, and Odd
In good news for those with crappy or no health insurance, all CVS stores in the nation will soon be carrying the AgaMatrix-manufactured "CVS Advanced Meter" (no creative points there, with this basically being a store-branded version of the Jazz) with test strips under $12 for a 50-count vial. Unfortunately, this meter won't work with the current Jazz strips as they did with the iBGStar meter).
Speaking of meters and drugstores, Walgreens is taking up the new plug-into-your phone iHealth Align Meter. The meter looks cool, and I like the fact that the app that runs it keeps track of the number of tests you've done and reminds you to reorder your strips when you begin to run low.
Lastly, two ladies in a small booth were there giving out miniature white New Testament bibles. They were from Gideon International, the folks famous for placing bibles in virtually every hotel room in the country. According to the Gideon's website, they've placed 1.9 billion volumes worldwide, but I'm sorry to say that at AADE their pile never seemed to get much smaller. Still I always admire tireless advocates, no matter what their cause.
Shortest Line Award: I'm sure they didn't intend it to be this way, but the folks at Abbott could not have chosen a better color scheme for the show. The big FreeStyle booth had sand-colored carpet, yellow signage, and a large pastel yellow-shirted staff. And their booth was as empty as the Sahara it resembled, which serves them right for not having the courage to try to bring their own insulin calculator meter to the USA when they had the chance. Oh, and the Abbott Freestyle Navigator tech, and the recent recall of FreeStyle strips used in OmniPods... need we say more?
Smallest Booth Award: The award for the smallest booth goes to Frio. But hey, how much room do you need to show off what are (IMHO) the world's best insulin cooling solution? They don't need space at all, since the Frio cool packs speak for themselves. Traditional cooler company Medicool was present, too, in a somewhat larger booth.
Stay tuned for Wil's take on the official conference sessions at AADE 2014 tomorrow — come on, you know you want to!