Smart Insulin Pens: The Next Big Thing in Diabetes?

July 09, 2021 | By Corinna Cornejo

Since then, each year diabetes innovators gather at D-Data Exchange to demo and discuss the latest innovations in diabetes tech. This year’s program was no exception.

This year’s industry panel focused on smart insulin pen systems. Sean Saint of Medtronic/Companion Medical, Søren Østergaard of Novo Nordisk, and Challis Imes of Eli Lilly shared why they see smart pens as the next big thing in diabetes tech.

I have to admit at first I was surprised to see insulin pens get the spotlight. Haven’t they been around for, like, forever? I remember seeing elaborate displays of insulin pens that looked more like a Montblanc than a syringe at the first diabetes conferences I attended. That was a decade ago.

Since then, smarts have been added to insulin pens. By adding technological smarts and connectivity they are becoming more than an insulin delivery device. They are becoming a part of an integrated diabetes management system. As such, smart insulin pens are poised to play a key role in encouraging personalized diabetes management and, potentially, revolutionizing people’s diabetes care.

At the very least a smart insulin pen can automatically keep track of insulin dosing. No need for keeping a log manually. No second guessing the amount of insulin taken, when it was taken, or if a dose was missed.

Add some math smarts and the pen can calculate the appropriate dose based on glucose readings and carb counts. No longer does a plate of food represent a complex calculation that must be done before sitting down to eat.

Helping to ensure that insulin is administered accurately and consistently leads to increased time in range, better A1C results and, ultimately, better health outcomes. These outcomes include fewer complications and hospitalizations which, in turn, leads to healthcare cost savings.

Add connectivity to the insulin pen and all the dosing data it has calculated and collected can be easily stored in the cloud and shared with the person’s healthcare team. This reliable, comprehensive set of data can then be used by practitioners to gain insight into the individual person’s diabetes management. It opens the door to personalized approaches to insulin dosing and glycemic management.

Ultimately, this leads to what was characterized as the true killer app (defined as a feature of a new technology that adds so much value, it is virtually indispensable): better conversations between the person living with diabetes and their healthcare provider. By better, the conversation is meant to have a data-driven focus on what to do going forward, as opposed to trying to diagnose what happened in the past.

Inevitably, the question of insulin pens vs. insulin pumps came up. Aren’t these all things that insulin pumps already can do? The panelists acknowledged the many capabilities of insulin pumps, but also pointed out that the lion’s share of people using insulin in the US use insulin pens. Not everyone will have access to, be able to afford, or will want to use an insulin pump. Choice is important and smart insulin pens can offer some of the benefits and features of an integrated system for those who do not want to be connected to a pump.

Smart insulin pens are one more option for insulin users who want to benefit from the many advantages adding some tech and connectivity to their diabetes management routine. For this reason, I agree with what I heard that smart insulin pens are poised to be the next big thing in diabetes care.