As we all know, there's A LOT to remember when it comes to diabetes. So Timesulin, a virtual company founded in 2009 in Germany, Sweden and the UK, hopes to help patients remember whether or not they've taken their insulin injection.
Unlike insulin pumps, most insulin pens don't come with a memory that you can scroll through to check whether or not you already bolused for your dinner. What to do if you're unsure? Not taking your insulin can leave you fighting high blood sugars for hours, but doubling up on insulin can cause serious — even deadly — consequences.
Timesulin co-founder John Sjölund knows exactly how important this is. As a type 1 PWD for the past 25 years, he's had his fair share of close calls. Timesulin recently made their debut at the 16th annual Foundation of European Nurses in Diabetes conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and now they're getting ready for an international release, though the official launch date is still TBD.
We chatted with Swedish-born John about his experiences and why Timesulin is so important to him and potentially to the lives of millions of PWDs who use insulin pens.
DM) You're not only the CEO of a diabetic start-up company, you're also "one of us." What's your D-story?
JS) I have been living with diabetes for over 25 years. I was diagnosed with Type 1 as a little boy and know that it was rough for my parents when it first happened. I guess the fact that I had to spend quite a few days in hospital after the initial diagnosis must have scared them.
My parents gave me a solid base from which to manage my diabetes. It was never used as an excuse for anything — I was treated exactly the same as my two older brothers and, for as long as I can remember, I've had to take responsibility for my own health. This has never been negotiable.
Sure, I got myself into some silly antics as a teenager, but neglecting my diabetes was never one of them. I have always strived to keep my A1C's in check; I eat well, stay active and keep track of my diabetes on a daily basis.
Today I see myself as living a fulfilling life with diabetes, not because of it OR hindered by it — it doesn't stop me from anything. I have run multiple half marathons, completed the world's longest cross-country ski race, and most recently, completed the 2011 London Triathlon.
Wow! So you're not a pumper. What has your experience been with injections?
I don't mind the injections anymore. After all, in my lifetime I've had way more days where I've injected myself than days where I haven't, so it just becomes part of the ritual, like brushing my teeth.
However, unlike brushing my teeth, where I can taste and smell the toothpaste to serve as a reminder of the fact that I have completed the action, it takes a while before the effects of missing or double dosing kicks in. By that time you already feel rather terrible — achy and tired if you missed the shot and shaky and sweaty if you took an accidental double. But even more than the physical effects, I hate the anxiety that accompanies not knowing. It drives me nuts, not knowing and waiting for the effects to kick in.
In worst-case scenarios, I've asked my wife to smell my belly around the injection site to see if she can detect any insulin residue on my skin. Not recommended in a social situation like in a restaurant, however! That's what Timesulin gives me... peace of mind. (And no more embarrassing belly-sniffing scenarios!)
Where did you get the idea for Timesulin?
For the longest time, I was asking my doctors when a solution to forgotten injections would be coming along, and I never got a conclusive answer. After years of having this problem and often speaking with my family about it, it was actually my brother Andreas who had the 'Eureka!' moment for how to solve this back in June 2008. If you figure that the average person with diabetes takes four injections per day, that equates to nearly 1,500 shots per year. Of course we are going to forget every once in a while, right? It happens to the best of us; young, smart, active people just like me.
What about Eli Lilly's Memoir pen with digital memory, which was introduced in 2007? Didn't that solve the problem?
Timesulin is different. It is actually a replacement cap that works with insulin pens people are already using. No need to go to your doctor's office, get a new prescription and hope that your pharmacy has it in stock. Additionally, you may use an insulin type that Lilly doesn't support, which means you would be out of luck.
This was important to me. I wanted the solution to work for everyone. No change in routine, no need to go to your doctor to get a new prescription or switch to a different type of insulin that may not work for you. It had to be simple.
How exactly does Timesulin work?
To use it, you just replace the cap that came with your pen with the Timesulin cap. Then each time you take your insulin and place the cap back on, a timer is started which tells you how long it has been since your last injection — unless you only take a very short peek at how much insulin is left. We thought of that! A quick peek won't reset the timer. The cap can be used for 12 months before it needs to be recycled and replaced.
What products does Timesulin work with?
At the moment, we have three lines of caps that work together with 10 types of insulin: • Novo Nordisk FlexPen (Levemir, Novolog, Novolog Mix 70/30, NovoRapid and also Victoza) • Lilly KwikPen (Humalog, Humalog Mix 75/25, Humalog 50/50) • Sanofi Solostar (Apidra) We also have other caps coming out next year.
Timesulin has just released a short preview video of John explaining the benefits of the product:
This sounds like a great product for pen users, but details on cost and availability remain TBD. An initial batch of 30,000 units are being manufactured now, and the Timesulin team is in final talks with distributors in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, southern Africa and Canada, we're told. In the meantime, you can subscribe to their newsletter or follow them on Twitter to get the latest info.