Diabetes Update: New Technology, New Medications, Manufactured Pancreas & More
Experts share what's new in 2012 when it comes to diabetes research, prevention, and treatment.
New Technology Shapes Diabetes Care
Diabetes care, with its "laundry list of to-dos and complex routines, is darn challenging," says John Zrebiec, MSW, CDE, director of behavioral health services at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
"That's why applying technology smarts to solve diabetes care challenges is a natural," says Amy Tenderich, PWD type 1, a blogger at diabetesmine.com and advocate for diabetes technology innovations.
Hundreds of technologies to improve diabetes care are at the ready or under exploration, including meters, sensors, pumps, and apps for daily management. Innovations fall into three areas: keeping you safe and supported, encouraging self-care efforts, and improving diabetes management.
"Advances in technology will shape the future of diabetes care and promise to make the self-care juggling act easier," Zrebiec says.New Meds: No Lows, No Weight Gain
The mantra for keeping complications at bay? Get and keep your blood glucose in the target zone. But with some medications' potential side effects of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and weight gain, few people are eager to take more meds to tighten control of type 2 diabetes. "With the newer meds that don't cause lows or weight gain, starting and progressing therapy has become an easier sell," says nurse practitioner Marjorie Cypress, Ph.D., CDE, vice president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.
"Prescribing meds that skip the undesirable side effects helps me rest easier and makes my patients happier," says Phillip Challans, M.D., a diabetologist at Mid-America Diabetes Associates in Wichita, Kansas. Challans says that without facing the threat of lows, type 2s are more likely to increase exercise and lose weight -- a positive feedback loop, for sure.
A big downside to these new meds, Challans says, is expense.
Out-of-pocket costs can run $200-$300 per month. It's obvious why some health plans want to keep people on the older, less expensive meds. Another challenge: Your provider might be more comfortable using older meds and less familiar with the ins and outs of prescribing the newer ones. Go ahead; ask about them.
A new category of glucose-lowering meds that could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is sodium-glucose transporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT-2s). They block a transporter protein that returns glucose to the bloodstream after it?s filtered through the kidneys so excess glucose can be flushed out in urination. SGLT-2s avoid lows and may enable a bit of weight loss. Look for generic names with the suffix "gliflozin." Also be on the watch for meds that have longer durations and require less-frequent dosing, along with no lows or weight gain.
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