Friday, 2 December 2011

Fifth Annual Insulin Pumps Association conference

Last week (apologies for the delay) I was invited by INPUT to attend the Fifth Annual Insulin Pumps Association conference in Manchester. Never one to miss the opportunity to jump face-first into events like this, I gladly accepted and before I knew it was boarding a train to Manchester and syncronising hypos with Lesley of INPUT fame.

On arrival and another spookily timed skyrocket out of (ahem) 'optimal range' on both our parts, Lesley and I were having dinner with some of the many other attendees at the conference including several bods from Roche and some healthcare professionals from a number of different hospitals around the country. It wasn't long before one of the sales managers from Roche had spotted that I was on a Medtronic pump and had begun their sales pitch at light speed. Frankly the Combo pump and blood glucose meter did impress, seeing as I was rifling through my bra for most of the duration of the meal to adjust insulin doses as each delicious (and very non-low carb) course came out, while all those with the combo remote controls were testing and bolusing (taking a shot of insulin for their meal) with ease. Truthfully I think the next pump for me will be a tubing free one seeing as the tubing is, for me, the biggest drawback of pumps in general. But it did show me that while my beloved Paradigm VEO was top of the market (again, just in my opinion) when I got it two years ago (is it really two years already??), it has been somewhat overshadowed by the newer sexier pumps on the market in recent years. Funny how quickly things move nowadays isn't it? Our diabetic predecessors must have been using metal and glass syringes for the 50 year mark before hypodermics came in, and now within 2 years the sexy new pump you once sported is the equivalent of the cassette tape to the ipod or what the horse and cart is to the Porsche.

It was with an eager attitude that I met Lesley for a suprisingly low carb but tasty full English breakfast the next morning and with that the conference was under way.

The exhibitions room was as always packed with impressive stands. But this being the first pump specific conference I had attended I was keen to get stuck in, knowing full well that the newer model Omnipod would be on show and I was hoping, the Cellnovo as well. I'd heard rumours about the Animas display which can be seen at these events and true to form, the most eye-catching stand had to be theirs, with a fish tank fully equipment with water, lights, real fish, plants and yes that's right, their insulin pump (!) suspended mid-tank. Although most pumps posit the same level of waterproofness (fairly confident that isn't in the dictionary) Animas are one of the only (if not the only) pump provider who are happy to guarantee their pump when submerged in shallow water. Great waterproofity? Waterprooficiousness? What IS theword!

There were also displays from Medtronic, Adanced Therapeutics (the company who bring the Dana pump and Dexcom CGM to the shores of the UK), Omnipod and my personal holy grail, Cellnovo.

I had a great chance to have a talk with Gary from Omnipod, who went some way to reassuring me that the teething problems I had experienced when I first made enquiries about their system had now been ironed out, thanks to a multiplying workforce and a chance to get their feet under the British market table. The new pod is certainly smaller than the old one and a contender against the much smaller and sleeker Solo (don't get too excited, its not avaialble here yet) and Cellnovo (watch this space, VERY soon). In truth I still have my doubts about Omnipod but only based on the fact that Medtronic's customer service still is - as far as I am concerned - second to none. That being said, the mention of Medtronic brings me on nicely to the holy grail of the day, the Cellnovo.

For anyone concerned about customer service, one of the head honchos at Cellnovo used to be on the Medtronic team and not just any team at that. She started the whole blogger forum craze and was, from what I hear, absolutely a key player in getting Medtronic's customer service at the very high level it is, which has been continued and pushed forward by their Justin Gray. So for a 'new' company who are just about to release their pump in the imminent future, I have a lot of faith they will do well. This, brings me to their pump.

I have looked at the website god knows how many times, but had until this point never had an opportunity to see it. 'Miniscule' is probably the most fitting term, considering inside it there are hundreds of parts, computers, insulin resevoirs and so on and so forth, that allow it to do it's job. It is technically a patch pump as the pump itself sticks to the skin using a velcro attachemnt, but the tubing between the pump and cannula can be varied allowing you to continue to put it in a pocket if you wish. That may sound like it defeats the point, but I have come across suprisingly large amounts of people who say they would like the option of hiding the pump if they were wearing a slinky dress or tight fitting shirt. I don't share these needs, but completely understand the concern. With the Cellnovo, that is possible. It is also equipped with a smart-phone like handset which allows real time measuring of impact of activity on BGs, acts as the remote control for the pump and frankly for the growing numbers of young people on pumps, will be a fantastic selling point. Considering for the most part young people are already well familiar with touch screen phones and wireless handsets.

It was great to see the Cellnovo and their team in action and provided there are no horror stories about the pump failing or customer service nightmares, I imagine this will be the kind of pump I aim for next, albeit in two years time!

But the reason above all else that I was there,was to attend the conference and hear the speakers. The name of this year's conference was 'From Cradle to Grave' and the overall message of the conference was that insulin pumps can be used in ANY portion of society and at ANY stage of life. We were given case studies of people at end-stage renal failure who were on pumps, babies as young as days old who we were shown photos of (which to be honest I found a bit shocking due to the very tiny body connected to the pump, although the shock was more a feeling of sadness that someone so 'new' had to already live that life). We talked about the benefits for pregnant women, children and pretty much every group you could imagine.

I see a specialist team at Portsmouth who are without a doubt a proactive and insulin pump friendly team without whom I would not have been on the incredible journey I have travelled in the last two years, but without a doubt they had nothing on the speakers at these conferences. In Cambridge they purport to have 50% of all their Type 1 child patients on pumps, which without a doubt blows the NICE benchmark out of the water and deeply puts to shame all those PCTs who are yet to welcome and encourage pumps for their most at risk patients. The word 'proactive' doesn't even begin to cover how forward thinking many of these professionals were. When I arrived at Cellnovo, the chair of the conference was even stood next to me (although I didn't know who he was yet) asking questions about what the benefit to the patient, this pump would have. The benefit to the patient; have you ever heard such madness! In some areas they seem to disregard even the benefit to the PCT, let alone the humble patient!

We had a fantastic talk from Candice Ward from Cambridge University Hospital about where the artificial pancreas project was going and how CGM and pump technology could well be the key components which will significantly impact the lives of diabetics. Although it was clear she felt this was not quite an imminent success, she did intimate that it was on the horizon and creeping closer to us day-by-day. My brain has a little party whenever someone says that.

All in all it was a fantastic day and the messages I took away were:

  • Don't buy it if you are told your clinic doesn't do pumps, talk to INPUT.

  • No matter your age, demographic or favourite day of the week, ASK THE QUESTION OF YOUR SPECIALIST

  • No-one is too young, too old, or 'too far gone' (whatever that means) not to benefit from a pump

  • Cellnovo are the ones to watch

  • There ARE some highly proactive hospitals in the country, so ask about changing if your clinic fob you off.

All in all a brilliant day.


  1. Thanks for the update Anna - sounds like a good time was had by all!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! One of my enduring memories was Fiona Campbell of Leeds, saying "no money" is not a good reason to deliver sub-optimal care. Her clinic has 50% of kids on pumps, too, and sees each patient for twice as long as they are supposed to.