August 19, 2006
Insulin Pumps, Research: Cure
Question from Albany, Georgia, USA:
I have a three-part question.
I have read that the U.S. does not want to cure diabetes, cancer, etc. because of the money that is made off of these illnesses. Is that correct?
Can you tell me more about the OmniPod pump?
I have heard that there are more advances in Canada with diabetes care and insulin pump therapy, due to FDA restrictions in the U.S. Is that true?
To your three part question, I offer a three part answer.
Anyone who tells you that scientists in the USA — or anywhere — do not want to cure a disease because of the profit in it are woefully mistaken. Thousands of scientists and doctors throughout the United States and across the world are working every day to find a cure for diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, as well as many other illnesses (AIDS, cancer, etc.). Their work is funded mostly by grants from governments and private charitable organizations that have no stake in any business that sells products related to any illness. Those who find a cure will earn immortality in the form of fame, fortune, and perhaps even a Nobel Prize. Those are powerful motivations, but even they pale in comparison to the real motivations of so many of these scientists — simply to do what is right and to make a difference in the world.
Even people working for companies that make products used by people with diabetes want a cure. I know people in every major diabetes company who have type 1 diabetes themselves or who have a child with type 1 diabetes. They work for these companies to improve the products we use so that children and adults with type 1 diabetes can live long and healthy lives. These companies have brought us enormous improvements in care, from fast-acting and more predictable insulins to tiny insulin pumps used by anyone of any age to glucose meters that produce results in 5 seconds to continuous glucose sensing systems. Yes, they make a profit on these products, but is that profit that has been invested in research and development to bring us better care options.
Finally, from a public health perspective, the cost to the U.S. and global economy of diabetes dwarfs any profits earned by companies in the diabetes business and everyone will be significantly better off once science finds a cure.
The OmniPod is a new type of insulin pump in which the pumping part is separated from the user interface to allow the pumping part to be reduced in size and worn on the body directly, without the need for a traditional infusion set and tubing. It is right now (August 2006) available in some parts of the U.S. You can learn more about it at the company’s web site — www.myomnipod.com.
Advances in diabetes care are available essentially everywhere at once. Scientific journals report on advances in diabetes therapies and those journals are available around the world to everyone. Almost all can be read online (most require subscriptions to access the complete full text), so anyone with a computer can stay current.
Whether a particular product is available for sale in a particular country is a function of the country’s health care regulatory system. Some products may be available first in Canada, some first in the US, some first in Germany — but in the end, almost all products are available in all parts of the world in relatively short order. How a given consumer pays for a particular product also varies from country to country and may, in fact, determine whether a particular product is available. As an example, if a country has national health insurance that refuses to cover insulin pumps, it might be difficult for a consumer in that country to get an insulin pump and a continuing supply of infusion sets and cartridges.