I had a fascinating on-site briefing with the folks at Pelikan Sun in Palo Alto on Tuesday. That's the company that makes the current "gold standard" in lancing -- the world's only electronic and completely painless finger-pricking device (really, it is).
The three founders are veterans of Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Labs, and have spent 10 years refining the technology they acquired from that company. What they've come up with is essentially a little "mini-computer" that has "micro-control" over the depth and velocity of the lancing process. Yada, yada, yada. I don't want to bore you with the technological details. Instead, I want to tell you about the twofold challenge that came out of my visit.
(that's their fingerprinted front door)
First, I learned about the company's big PR challenge:
"This is the kind of device that can be life-changing, but you really have to touch it, feel it, try it, to 'get it.' We can't just go out saying 'it's painless, it's painless' because people have heard all that before," says marketing director Lisa Rogan.
The device, launched in November 2007, is already a big hit among children with Type 1 and their parents who've had a chance to test it in person at an expo or camp. But it's $200 out-of-pocket for the box itself, and another $15 for every 100 finger pricks (50 non-reusable lancets per disk). "There's no insurance code for an electronic lancing device, so no coverage," Rogan notes, although the disks carrying the needles do qualify as regular supplies.
It's difficult to make the argument that people should shell out this kind of money for a lancing device -- something that doesn't actually change your glucose control in any way -- or that they should carry around yet another bulky D-device, in this case at a somewhat chunky 4 x 2.5 x 1 inches.
We had a long talk about all the ecstatic parents who say their kids and teens are so much happier testing with the Pelikan, and therefore get better control with a lot less family stress. I believe it. I believe there are also many newly diagnosed adults, both Type 1 and Type 2, who would test much more regularly if it were just this comfortable to do.
But how to get the word out? Again, you really have to try this thing to become a believer. And that's kind of what happened to me.
Challenge No. 2: One Month to Better "Finger Health"?
We all had a close look at my fingertips. I was kind of embarrassed to discover how pocked and calloused they are, after just four years of this stuff.
Would I be willing to try the Pelikan Sun for three to four weeks on one hand, while using my regular (thumbtack-like) lancet on the other hand to gauge the difference bruises, scars and calluses? You betcha!
Essentially they're asking me to help with Challenge No. 1, above, but why not? I'm always up for an honest review of an honest product.
And truly, I'd like to get rid of those little black spots where the blood is trapped under thickening skin. I'd like to gain "overall improved finger sensation" so I don't have to keep cranking my lancing device up to top velocity and then jabbing myself over and over just to draw blood. And then practically needing a tourniquet to stop the flow.
And so I embark on my pain-free lancing journey. Not that the pain itself ever really bothered me. But I am more than willing to do without it, and save my wretched fingers at the same time. So I'm now officially packing the "gold box" with me wherever I go. I chose my right hand, the one in worst shape, to test the Pelikan Sun's soft touch. Wish me luck.
If you're interested in testing the Pelikan, here's a short list of some events the company will be attending. They're also working hard on getting units out to CDEs across the country so patients can try this thing right where they live.