February is of course awards season thanks to the Grammys and Oscars, and in keeping with tradition we're excited to once again offer our own take on the "best-of" in various categories among the Diabetes Community.
What's unique about our DiabetesMine D-Oscars is that they not only praise work over the past year, but also have an eye to recognizing those who are continuously influencing the D-Community in positive ways (plus some not-so-good examples).
Below are our picks for the past year -- and a few that have snuck in from the early part of 2017. Each one gets access to our special "virtual D-Oscar" illustrated by the talented T1-peep Brad Slaight. Yes, he resembles a deep sea diver, but those are Blue Circles for diabetes awareness on his head and hands, thank you very much.
And so, envelopes please...
Best in D-Tech: Closed Loop (See Also: MiniMed 670G from Medtronic)
Marking a milestone by getting FDA clearance in 2016, Medtronic's MiniMed 670G is the first-ever hybrid closed loop system approved by regulators and it's being launched in the United States before anywhere else in the world! This first first regulatory-approved device of its kind has been in the works for over a decade, and it moves us closer to a fully automatic Artificial Pancreas. The system should become available to patients in Spring, and is generating all kinds of buzz in the D-Community leading up to the launch.
Top Mover & Shaker: Howard Look
When you get to hang with the U.S. president to talk diabetes and personalized medicine, and highlight an entire disease community's excitement about open-source, do-it-yourself-technology, you get a "Mover and Shaker" award. This D-Dad who founded non-profit data group Tidepool was invited to the White House in February 2016 to participate in a national health panel discussion and receive a "Health Change Makers" award. He also got a candid hand shake and shoulder-pat from President Obama, captured on camera. Well done, Howard!
Most Enterprising D-Tech Startup: Beta Bionics
OK, OK, we get it. The iLET bionic pancreas has been on the radar with its evolving prototypes for the past few years, and we won't likely see this exciting new tech on the market for a of couple of years to come. But this past year saw the creation of a new "public benefit corporation" structure, the first in the Diabetes Community to utilize this hybrid business model allowing a company to prioritize public benefit over profit to shareholders. Hello, Beta Bionics! This is pretty great, as it allows for Dr. Ed Damiano and his iLET team to not only have the business setup to manufacture and market the eventual glucagon + insulin closed loop tech, but also to pursue commercialization in a way that does good for the D-Community. What a refreshing embrace of the #PatientsOverProfit mantra and definitely an Oscar-worthy idea!
Best Diabetes Celebrity Collaboration: Beyond Type 1
New powerhouse non-profit Beyond Type 1 wins the D-Oscar for garnering support and involvement from an impressive group of celebrities who happen to be living with T1D -- including Victor Garber who's had many theater and film role including in the Oscar-winning film Argo and a place on Canada's Walk of Fame. This group is taking celeb-infused diabetes advocacy to a whole new level, bringing on names like Garber, Nick Jonas, Sierra Sandison, and Sam Talbot, and they're also creating a whole new "badass" look and attitude for standing up for diabetes. We love what they're doing, particularly the most recent initiatives focusing on #DiabetesAccessMatters. Great stuff with great celeb appeal!
'Google It!' Diabetes Award: Google
Whatever it's known as these days, the fact is this search engine and data analytics powerhouse is definitely into diabetes. Over the past couple years it's teamed up with Dexcom to develop a miniature CGM sensor and its Life Sciences group Verily has spun off a joint venture with Sanofi called Unduo that's working on data analytics, software and miniaturized devices to"transform diabetes care." There's also still that glucose-sensing contact lens project. And most recently, our D-Community saw years of advocacy pay off when a Google Doodle appear on Nov. 14, 2016 -- World Diabetes Day, in recognition of the birthday of insulin co-discoverer Dr. Frederick Banting.
YES! Totally awesome, Google!!
Most Innovative Thinking: Tandem Diabetes Care's t:slim X2
This next-generation technology may look mostly the same as the first sleek, touchscreen t:slim pump, but make no mistake: it's outside-the-box thinking here. The new t:slim X2 pump platform allows you to remotely update your device software from home, just like you do with your smartphone. No need to buy a whole new hardware device every time new new features become available. For now, this is limited to what's FDA approved on the Tandem platform. But before long, we'll have the ability to upload Dexcom G5 CGM compatibility and eventually closed loop functionality -- without having to wait for warranties to run out and order a whole new insulin pump, as we've had to do historically. Way to go on modernization, Tandem!
Best D-Fashion or Fun Design: GrifGrips
It's rocket science, people. We profiled this new diabetes small biz that makes the fun GrifGrips stickers, worn over Dexcom sensors, OmniPods and infusion sets all over the world (and the body). The D-parents who started this business actually worked for NASA and are real live rocket scientists, and they named the patch after their son Griffin, who lives with T1D. Their colorful variety of adhesive-cover stickers became all the rage in 2016, with people showing them off all across the DOC, so they've certainly earned this particular D-Oscar cred.
Biggest Public Display of Diabetes (PDD): Caroline Carter
Deja vu, in that we found ourselves once again rooting for a Miss America candidate who happens to have T1D! Yep, the amazing Caroline Carter from New Hampshire won her state pageant and became a contender to represent the USA in the annual beauty competition. Even though she didn't get that top honor, Caroline represented our D-community well by showing off her Dexcom and Medtronic insulin pump during the competition while also raising the bar on diabetes advocacy for all types. Definitely awareness-building and shame-dispelling for the general public!
Most Ground-Breaking New Diabetes Med: Basaglar Insulin
This is the first-ever follow-on biosimilar version of insulin available in the United States, approved by the FDA in late 2015 and hitting the market in December 2016. While the cost isn't dramatically lower and the insulin action itself is essentially the same as Sanofi's Lantus (which it's based on), this is a ground-breaking new formulation of insulin that will set the stage for future biosimilar products and hopefully, sooner rather than later, ultra-fast-acting insulin.
The Angry Oscar: Big Insulin Manufacturers
OK, there also has to be recognition of the most serious, anger-inducing issue of the year: Insulin Affordability. No matter how much they try to deflect blame onto others, the three Big Insulin Makers (Lilly, Novo, Sanofi) share a brunt of the responsibility for driving up prices and therefore endangering the lives of people dependent on this drug for survival. Other players are part of the problem too, to be sure, and there is no magic bullet to fix this because you can't just flip a switch and make insulin free of charge. But the manufacturers have been in the cross hairs more than ever lately, and for that they get one of these Oscars that no one really wants.
Tomato-In-The-Face Award: Medtronic
In what it described as a good move allowing people expanded access to insulin pumps (WTF), Medtronic signed a deal with UnitedHealthcare to make its own products the "preferred brand" of insulin pumps (read: only brand) offered to UHC plan participants. Sorry, MedT and UHC: We disagree. This doesn't allow more access, but rather hinders it. Insulin pumps are not interchangeable commodities, no matter what some investor-types may claim. People these life-sustaining devices -- that are literally tethered to their bodies 24/7 -- based on a variety of important features and functions beyond the simple fact that they deliver insulin. We should all encourage innovation in medical devices that fit a variety of human needs and lifestyles, to help all manner of patients thrive. There is evidence that you're harming PWDs in the name of profit over patients. Not cool.
The Broken-in-Half Oscar: Insurers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers
Following on the above, we're breaking this particular 'award' in half, to give PBMs and Insurance Companies each a piece. They're both part-and-parcel of the problems our D-Community faces in the broken healthcare system we have. How they operate causes confusion and simply defies logic, and it needs to be addressed. (See also, #PBMsExposed)
Most Influential Script-Writing: Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition
Kudos once again to DPAC, the grassroots advocacy group led by Christel Aprigliano and Bennet Dunlap. With so many initiatives surfacing over the past year, this organization has been a guiding force in patient advocacy, offering our D-Community ideas and resources to easily engage in a variety of ways on multiple issues -- from strengthening #DiabetesAccessMatters efforts to protecting our overall healthcare rights. Through both Twitter campaigns and quick-action email blasts to lawmakers or insurance CEOs via its Action Center, DPAC assists our community with raising our collective voice quickly and efficiently when it matters most. We highlighted their accomplishments and goals earlier in the year, and look forward to seeing what comes next from this star group.
Best Diabetes Advocacy Moment: #BeyondA1C
This was a tough one, as we had some serious contenders -- #DiabetesAccessMatters, born from the above-noted Medtronic-UHC deal and blossoming into real advocacy efforts and policy discussions; and past-winner #WeAreNotWaiting for the new burst of energy in do-it-yourself D-technology on the open-source, closed loop front. But in the end, for 2017, the #BeyondA1C movement stands out. Our D-Community saw a groundswell of advocacy on this particular issue, from our friends at DPAC and DiaTribe and many others who shared their stories directly with the FDA. The big mic drop moment was the FDA September Beyond A1c Workshop, that marked the first time the regulatory agency seriously considered reviewing measures beyond just our A1C in deciding what might make a drug or device worth approving for diabetes care. And from that meeting, we saw real change at the government level, which leads us right into our next category...
Best in Diabetes: FDA
For the second year in a row, we have to give a top honor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Seriously, the regulatory agency responsible for approving new drugs and devices, plus overseeing the safety of these treatments and tools, has transformed into a faster, more patient-centered version of itself in all things diabetes in the past few years.
Just to name a few ways: Approving the above-noted Medtronic hybrid closed loop system way sooner than anyone expected; taking the big step to look Beyond A1C and consider other aspects like glucose variability and "time in range" as diabetes end points, and moving efficiently on approving the Dexcom G5 CGM's a "dosing claim" that sanctions it as good enough to use for insulin dosing and treatment decisions, without the mandate to do a confirmatory fingerstick first! Thank you, FDA, for listening to our D-Community and working to make sure that regulatory policy keeps up with the realities of diabetes IRL (in real life), and setting the stage for CGM to become an even more mainstream standard of care.
Honorable Mention: CMS
No one could have predicted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would shine by taking the first steps toward allowing continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to be covered by Medicare! Yep, this decision in early January 2017 opened the door for broader CGM coverage, and as the agency works to put the billing procedures in place this year, we're thrilled to know that soon enough our PWD friends ages 65 and older on Medicare will have access to this technology if they choose.
Lifetime Achievement Award, DOC-Style: Kitty Castellini
Many of us in the Diabetes Online Community will not forget Kitty, who was a well-known advocate and loyal friend for years. Along with being the longest-surviving pancreas transplant recipient who was basically cured of T1D for several years, she was the voice behind the 2007-founded Diabetes Living Today, one of the early online hubs bringing our community together. All of her advocacy work inspired countless people in the D-Community, not to mention made us laugh and kept us honest and focused on the most relevant topic du jour.
D-Research Supporter Lifetime Achievement Award: Alan Thicke
Our community recently said goodbye to actor and diabetes dad Alan Thicke, widely known for his acting roles over decades that included iconic father Jason Seaver on the '80s sitcom Growing Pains. His son Brennan was diagnosed with T1D at age 4 more than three decades ago, and among other D-advocacy efforts and TV commercials through the years, Alan founded the Alan Thicke Centre for Diabetes Research in 1989.
Legendary Lifetime D-Achievement: Mary Tyler Moore
Goodbye to a legend, no doubt. Our D-Community continues mourning the passing of Mary Tyler Moore in January 2017, recognizing her as one of the first trailblazers in talking about T1D publicly and embracing the "You Can Do This" mantra. She was diagnosed in her '30s four decades ago, just as she was starting out in the starring role on her namesake Mary Tyler Moore Show. Along with all of her incredible acting achievements over the years, Mary was the face of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF) from the 1980s to early 2000s, and she changed the game on raising awareness and funding diabetes research.
CONGRATS to all the WINNERS!
What do you think, Friends?