Conference Coverage: ADA, AADE

Coverage of technology developments at the 77th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).
Published Online: September 30, 2017
Christina Mattina, Mary Caffrey
ADA 2017

Experts Offer Perspectives on “What’s Now and What’s Next” for Artificial Pancreas Systems


At a symposium during the 77th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, researchers discussed the progress that has been made in developing hybrid closed-loop (HCL) insulin delivery systems—and what challenges remain.Also known as an “artificial pancreas,” an HCL system consists of an insulin pump and sensor that uses an algorithm to continuously monitor glucose and adjust insulin dosing. These systems aim to reduce glycemic variability and make it easier for patients with diabetes to stay in their target glucose range.1

  Roman Hovorka, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, kicked off the symposium by presenting the perspective from Europe, where recent study results demonstrate promising outcomes with HCL systems in outpatients with diabetes. The technology is such a hot topic that a question about the artificial pancreas appeared on the General Certificate of Secondary Education exams taken by 16-year-old students in the United Kingdom.

  Hovorka highlighted the promising results of several European trials that saw patients with diabetes improve their time in target glucose range and lower their rate of hypoglycemic events when using HCL systems. For instance, the Pediatric Artificial Pancreas project tested such a device in children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) attending an overnight camp in Italy and found that their time in hypoglycemia was 3-fold lower than when they used a standard insulin pump.2

Another study he discussed tested HCL insulin systems in pregnant women with T1D in the United Kingdom and found that the systems improved the time in target glucose range and reduced incidences of hyperglycemia compared with standard pump therapy, both overnight and over a 24-hour period.3 Even when the women went into labor, there were no instances of hypoglycemia during the 24 hours before and 48 hours after delivery. Notably, the women reported improved sleep, reduced worry, and feelings of empowerment and reassurance while using the HCL system to control their glucose levels.

  When taken together, Hovorka said, these study findings provide evidence that HCL systems can increase time in optimal glucose range and are well tolerated by users and in pediatric populations and their guardians.

  Eda Cengiz, MD, MHS, FAAP, associate professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, offered her take on “what’s now and what’s next” in HCL systems from the American perspective. She highlighted the evident need for better glucose management, as a majority of patients with diabetes have poorly controlled glycated hemoglobin levels and the dangers of complications are ever-present.

  After providing an overview of the terminology associated with continuous glucose monitoring systems, including HCL systems, Cengiz discussed the findings of a study on Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G, the first HCL system to enter the US market.4 This insulin-only system increased time in target glucose range for adults and adolescents with T1D by reducing hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia and was shown to reduce glycemic variability.

  The study, which was conducted while patients were at home and did not require meal restrictions, found that the MiniMed 670G was well tolerated and that patients reported high satisfaction and quality of life while using the device. No events of diabetic ketoacidosis or severe hypoglycemia were observed in either the adults or adolescents.

Cengiz also described several studies that tested the HCL systems with exercise or other challenging conditions. For instance, the Type Zero DiAs system was tested while users were skiing and among typical adolescents who may forget to deliver an insulin bolus; results showed that it reduced time in hypoglycemia and resulted in better glycemic metric outcomes.5 Researchers observed some alarm burnout, but 100% of participants described the system as beneficial.

  With these successful findings in mind, Cengiz acknowledged some opportunities for artificial pancreas systems to improve. She said they need to be tested in broader, more representative patient populations and noted that after-meal glucose control could be better achieved through the use of ultra–fast acting insulins. Finally, the burden to the patient needs to be alleviated by creating more user-friendly systems and providing more device training and support. HCL systems, Cengiz said, represent a new, team-based approach to diabetes management that requires patients and providers to think of technology as an ally.

  “There is a digital revolution going on everywhere in our lives, and it’s unrealistic to think that diabetes will be isolated from this technology revolution,” she concluded.

--Christina Mattina

CGM “Debate” Finds Benefits, Barriers to Uptake  in Type 2 Diabetes  

The mood was light—where else do presenters’ slides feature the back side of a rhinoceros and a smiling monkey—but the message was serious: after decades of trying and more than 40 drugs with FDA approval, large numbers of patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) still have poor glycemic control.

  Could broader use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) be the answer in T2D? For the right patients, yes, but the challenge is identifying those patients, according to Jeremy Pettus, MD, and William H. Polonsky, PhD, CDE, both from the University of California at San Diego, the host city for the 77th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which took place June 9-13, 2017.

  The ADA session, Should Continuous Glucose Monitoring Be Prescribed for People with Type 2 Diabetes? A Pro/Con Discussion, was styled as a debate, but Pettus and Polonsky turned it into a lively exchange of evidence that supports CGM for patients with T2D, along with research gaps and practical barriers to bringing the technology to more patients.

  They started with a key ground rule: they had refused to debate CGM use for patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) because it’s the standard of care, but they took note of the recent Medicare rule change that would soon bring Dexcom’s G5 to beneficiaries on intensive insulin therapy, which affects most patients with T1D and some with T2D.1

  After Polonsky took the “con” position for sections on patients who use insulin, he and Pettus switched sides—and suit jackets—to debate CGM use for those with T2D using oral medication, who represent most patients with diabetes. Pettus started with an update from the DIAMOND study, which had previously shown that CGM was just as effective for patients with T1D using multiple daily injections of insulin as those using pump therapy.2 New data from patients with T1D and T2D who use CGM show that it helps those using daily injections across both patient groups.3

  The question about CGM, Pettus posed, is, is it worth the burden and the cost? It’s worth noting, he said, that patients associate how sick they are with the number of medications they take. Unlike medication, CGM has “no side effects.”

  There are concerns about patients learning to use CGM, especially if they develop T2D when they are older and less tech savvy. Pettus said there’s other evidence that shows that with limited instruction, a 1-page handout, patients with T2D learned to use CGM and it made a difference.

  What’s more, he said, it made the biggest difference in patients with glycated hemoglobin above 9%, a group that “we might write off as hopeless.”For these patients, seeing what certain foods and exercise does to blood sugar proves an eye-opener. “People seeing it in real time is empowering,” Pettus said.

  Many assume CGM will require more of a doctor’s time, but it could require less in the long run. “We have a paternalistic view of medicine, and that’s just not the case with CGM,” Pettus said. Armed with better tools, patients “might not need us, and that’s OK.”

  Polonsky said the main challenge is that patients with T2D with the most severe hypoglycemia haven’t been studied—and they should be. He read from one of Pettus’ papers to raise the question whether patients had the confidence to actually use their CGM consistently. “Maybe,” Polonsky said, “but we need more evidence.”

  Pettus sought to dispel several myths about CGM and basal insulin: (1) titration with self-monitoring isn’t perfect; (2) people will use the results, as seen in one study that showed patients using  CGM ate fewer calories, lost weight, and exercised more; (3) hypoglycemia is a significant problem in T2D, and tests with CGM showed people had events that might have gone unnoticed, but the CGM allowed them to act.

  In response, Polonsky said a 2014 study involving CGM in patients with T2D on basal insulin produced great results—but also involved frequent contact with the patients. There were 10 visits over 6 months, more than would happen in the real world.4 “Was it the CGM or the remarkable support these folks got?” he asked.

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