Thursday, 14 August 2014 | by Mike K

Half unit Lantus insulin pen free on prescription - at last!

About bloomin time!

I had heard about this some months ago, but then promptly forgot about it.

In April 2014 Sanofi launched the JuniorStar, a 1-30u insulin pen that can be used with Lantus (glargine) insulin and delivers doses in 0.5u increments. Woooo hooooo!

During my least years on MDI, wrestling Lantus into submission was more or less a full-time hobby. My basal requirement changes frequently in response to a wide range of factors (differences in general activity levels, warmer/cooler weather, or more frequently... just because it feels like it). On pump these tweaks are easier to manange, but more than once on Lantus I would seem to find myself in a position where a change of a whole unit up or down was just a bit too much, and I would have to settle for a Hobson's choice dose. It was particularly frustrating because of the 'some units are more equal than others' weirdness that I frequently see when my basal insulin dose is just a little bit out. A unit too much or too little of Lantus over 24 hours could leave me scoffing a massive stack of carbs to stave off relentless lows, or chasing high BGs with units and units of extra rapid-acting insulin corrections.

Diabetes is biology, not maths - and we can't always expect the numbers involved to behave in a predictable, logical way. This will be news to none of you.

So HURRAH to the fine French pharma folks for finally stepping up to the plate and launching a 0.5u pen. Mysteriously though Sanofi are yet another pharma company to market a half unit pen with a 'Junior' mindset (NovoNordisk did the same with the NovoPen Echo). It is as if only children could possibly find a use for half-unit increments. I can only hope that adult patients will not have difficulty* in accessing this potentially very useful addition to their Diabetes Gubbins stockpile.

EDIT: *Due to the ridiculous immediacy of the flow of information in the Twit-o-sphere, having posted this just a few minutes ago someone has already pointed out that the JuniorStar can be obtained directly from Sanofi, without the need to jump through tortuous prescription hoops and bothering your surgery/clinic. Simply contact the Sanofi helpline. Thanks to @davidcragg for the tip :)

Sunday, 10 August 2014 | by Mike K

Need to know - Diabetes UK's Make the Grade Campaign

In this latest guest post for Diabetes UK I've been invited to think about their fantastic 'Make the Grade' campaign to improve care for children with type 1 diabetes in schools.

There are a lot of things that you can learn.

Really. Lots.

The world is a big place, and almost everything about it has a bewildering level of complexity and detail that can be known. And however much you know, or think you know about anything, there is still more that can be learned.

As an example (I think I am nicking this from QI, but it may well be a conversation I had with my father-in-law about maps) the UK is an island, and you can find authoritative estimates of the length of its coastline. I say estimates, because of course coastlines being what they are, all 'wibbly-wobbly', cartographers quite rightly usually measure a series of straight lines from point-A to point-B without going around absolutely all the wibbles (what Slartibartfast described as the 'lovely crinkly edges'). In fact if you wanted a more detailed and empirical measurement, you would need to carefully measure in and out of each tiny inlet and rivulet; and decide how far inland to stop measuring the rivers. You would suddenly have a whole lot more coastline to measure. But more than that, each of these inlets are made up of still smaller imperfections which each have an edge than can be measured. And down and down to a grain of sand level where you could, if you had quite a bit of time on your hands, measure around each fragment of rock, each plant cell, each molecule.

So it turns out that the length of the UK's coastline is pretty much infinite.

The more you look, the more you see.

And so it is that most of us spend most of our time deliberately ignoring most things. The world is just far too complex and difficult to comprehend otherwise. We live our lives on a 'need to know' basis, and mostly what we need to know to get by in the world is almost nothing about everything. The merest fragments. Therefore, by extension, we can't expect everyone to know very much about a subject, even if we have decided to learn quite a lot about it ourselves.

Can you tell me where to find all the hidden ammo packs and weapons stashes on the second 'Venice' level of Tomb Raider 2? Well quite.

I was diagnosed at age 21, in the final year of my degree. Like almost everyone I knew absolutely nothing about type 1 diabetes when I had *that* conversation with the GP who had the results of my Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. At a push I might have been able to tell you that it had something to do with sugar and not being able to eat stuff (I know!). I saw something on Twitter this week by someone who had an overwhelming desire to eat an entire pack of doughnuts in the days before they had their diagnosis conversation, just because they 'still could'. I remember that feeling myself. That in some ways the conversation with a sober-faced Doctor was the dividing line that separated the old life from the new. I remember asking for sugar in my coffee on the diabetes ward, and wondering if honey would be OK as a substitute for table sugar because it was, you know, 'natural'.

Pitiful.

It took me a long time to learn just a little about living with type 1 diabetes, and an even longer time to unlearn some of the misconceptions I picked up along the way. I've been juggling life and my diabetes for just short of 25 years, and I now consider myself to be a semi-competent beginner.

Managing type 1 diabetes is like measuring the coastline of the UK. Managing type 1 diabetes in children and young people is like measuring it with a magnifying glass. It is almost infinitely complex.

It is no wonder schools need support. It is absolutely no wonder that some schools really struggle to help children and young people with diabetes and other long term conditions effectively. Every child is different and has a unique set of needs and support requirements. Every child with type 1 diabetes doubly so and twice on Thursdays.

And yet there is hope - there are beacons of great care and lessons that can be learned elsewhere. If you are connected to a school, nursery or college that is not quite stepping up to the mark diabetes-wise, now is the time for action.

Fanstastic care and support for children with type 1 and their families is possible. It is happening all across the country. Make the Grade is about providing help and information to schools, nurseries, colleges and clubs that are finding it hard to rise to the challenge of type 1. It is about getting the best care for each child so that they can maximise their potential.

Make the Grade offers a practical, focussed toolkit and information for improving care. Good job too, because as of September 2014 proper support and care for T1 children and young people in schools becomes a legal requirement. This is no longer something that can be put on the back burner because, you know, it's a bit tricky.

If you are a teacher, parent or governor and want to know how 'Make the Grade' can make a difference to children in your care, visit the Diabetes UK website to find out more.

Good care for children with Type 1 diabetes is possible. Many schools provide fantastic support to children with Type 1, but some have concerns about how best to look after children with the condition.

A new law in England means that from September 2014 schools in England must make sure children with Type 1 diabetes are properly supported. But good care needs happen right across the UK, whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Schools have responsibilities for children with long-term medical conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes, so they need to know how to ensure children have the right care and support to enable them to take part in all aspects of school life.
That’s why Diabetes UK has produced new resources for schools which provide practical tips and information on how best to support children with Type 1 diabetes so that they are able to make the most of their time at school. Their Type 1 diabetes at school: School pack is packed to the brim with useful information, including a sample medical conditions policy, information about the condition and how best to support children and young people who have it, answers to important questions, like how to store insulin, what training staff might need and much, much more.


The free school pack is available to order on the Diabetes UK website at www.diabetes.org.uk/schools.

(from the 'Make the Grade' Action toolkit)

Friday, 18 July 2014 | by Mike K

Speed boats and oil tankers - Guest post for Diabetes UK

My ups and downs have been a little more up and down of late (read for most of this year, it's still early Spring, right?). Not exactly disastrous, but I've not really managed to ever get things into any kind of groove for more than a week at a time. A bit wearying to say the least.

Part of me knows the best way to improve things is to go back to basics and do some fasting basal tests and tweak my basal profiles based on actual information rather than the (un)educated guesswork I've been relying on for a while. Another part of me is having enormous difficulty summoning up any enthusiasm, since I know that the summer holidays are coming and I'm likely to stop going to the gym for a couple of months which will have a knock-on effect in itself.

So I'm spending my time grumbling and hurrumphing instead (my family are so lucky!).

On the plus side it does give me a chance to jot down this analogy that I've been meaning to for some time. It's something that usually strikes me when my BG levels are a bit errant, and insulin and food are just not playing nicely.

When it comes to trying to balance the effects of food and insulin on blood glucose levels (well and everything else.. but specifically food and insulin), one thing that makes it very tricky is the difference in the speed of action of carbohydrate and insulin. It's not enough to accurately match the dose of insulin to the amount of carbohydrate you are eating - you have to try to ensure that the two act more or less together to reduce BG wobbliness (technical term).

Almost all carbohydrate is very much in the speedboat class. Fans of glycaemic index tables (GI) might agonise over whether something is high GI, medium GI or low GI, but in my experience the differences equate to something being 'almost instantaneous', 'really very fast indeed' or only 'very fast'. Not a great deal of protection against the ravages of a post-meal spike, either physiologically, or that emotional kick in the guts of seeing your levels rise from a decent pre-meal number well into double figures an hour or so later. From the very first mouthful those big outboards start roaring and the carbs go zipping and zooming about, gleefully spraying glucose in their wake.

Insulin, on the other hand - even the fancy schmancy 'rapid acting' analogues can seem painfully slow to get going. More like one of those behemothic oil tankers or container ships. With a great groaning and clanking, the thrum of the plunger on an insulin pen or pump delivers the dose and then... Nothing. Watch and wait. Is it an illusion? Is it actually moving yet? Nope. Still can't see anything happening.

Vooooom! Swish! The carbs go tearing past again. Running rings around the slumbering giant.

This is particularly the case for me when I am waiting for a correction dose to kick in. I've had to stop myself from checking post-correction BGs before an hour has elapsed. Any less than that and the chances are my BG will be almost unchanged. An hour! Thanks Novo Turgid - not exactly breakneck.

Of course... one of the things about an oil tanker is that once it is moving, there's not a lot you can do about it. All those stories about them needing however many hundred nautical miles to slow down or turn a corner. And so it can feel with rapid insulins.

Nothing... nothing... nothing... Ah good, movement! Good... All good, back into range. Right that's enough now thanks... STOOOOOOOOOP!

But on and on, the dose lumbers forward - an unstoppable force. All-ahead full. The tanker has now run straight over those speedboats crushing them to matchwood and we could very well be steering directly toward Port Hypo.

Corrections can be a tricky course to navigate. Artoo tries to help by offering a suggestion of 'Active insulin' - how much dose is still working away, but there are *many* variables to factor into that equation. Sadly I find Artoo's attempts to be the vaguest of indications at best, and often wildly inappropriate to the particular circumstances of the moment.

Patience is the skill I have to master. I am always trying to remind myself that while the spike in my blood glucose levels may have happened in only 45 minutes or so, the insulin correction will only have stopped after something like 4 or 5 hours. If I get impatient and overcorrect in the meantime I am likely to cause myself another problem (and more wobbles) by overdoing it.

Aye aye, Cap'n.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014 | by Mike K

Hands up who thinks kids with diabetes deserve decent care and support in schools

I was diagnosed at 21, during the final year of my degree. Not perfect timing I suppose, but I recognise that I had it a whole LOT easier than the thousands of kids who are diagnosed at a very young age and who have to try to balance life with type 1 diabetes alongside the unpredictability, raging hormones, growth spurts and peer pressure of school life.

I. Cannot. Imagine. It.

So hats off to Diabetes UK for their 'Make the Grade' campaign which aims to improve the support offered to children with diabetes in schools.

If you'd like to find out a little about what they are doing and why it is so important, they have produced a nifty piece of You-Tubery here:

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 | by Mike K

Uncertainty Tennis

I found myself playing 'uncertainty tennis' again earlier this week. Perhaps you don't call it that... 'paranoia ping-pong' maybe? Or possibly 'confusion Kerplunk'. On the other hand - perhaps it's just me... And no one else ever catches themselves doing this?

The game begins some time before it starts, usually at least a day before, often more. You make a treatment decision based on what we long-term pancreas impersonators hilariously think of as 'what normally works', except that, on that day, it doesn't. Undaunted, you take some more insulin and/or carbs that 'should sort this out'. Except that it doesn't either. Or the next thing. Or the next.

Now that the groundwork is in place, the game can begin in earnest. Evenings are my favourite time to play, since that is the time of day when I eat the widest variety of meals often with the highest carb load.

Play.

First serve the other day was a carefully carb counted plate of pasta. A meal I have often eaten without suffering undue BG chaos for many years (yes I know... odd isn't it). Bolus delivered and food eaten. 15 all.

An hour an a half later, since things have been a bit unreliable over the last couple of days I decide I should check post-meal just to see how things are going. BG well into double figures. Darn. And pasta has a reputation for being very slowly absorbed too! And I didn't even muck about with extended bolus, blah blah blah. 15-30.

Now I know that the meal dose is still chugging away. But I also know that I really shouldn't have shot up this much by now. Artoo thinks there is plenty of IOB (insulin on board), but from experience it seems that would only be the case if I'm 8 or 9 at this point, rather than 12-point-annoying. Override the advice and whack in another unit. 30 all.

Another hour passes and I come over all hungry. Hmmm. Best be on the safe side. Low 10's. Well OK. Not low then. Still quite a lot of IOB though. And I *did* override. Sit tight or do something else? Pasta will still be going strong right now, won't it? Will it? 40-30.

Then a stunning approach shot... 20 minutes later and for reasons I can never fully explain I pop in another .7u - Deuce.

The crowd gasp! I've stopped testing now and I'm playing on instinct...

Too much IOB now surely? 2 Fruit Pastilles.

Then a minute later another one.

Still don't want to test. Too many out of range numbers today and I just don't want to see another in either direction... It's like whatever action I've just taken immediately feels wrong so I have to counteract it before it has a chance to take any effect.

Third of a unit.

Swig of lucozade.

Biscuit.

Too much surely?! Half a unit. The crowd are in their feet... (I'm milking it for comic effect now).

Finally after several hours, I can resist it no longer. I check again. 5.whatever with umpty units IOB, plus the last few lots of feverish carb corrections and whatever pasta remains still ticking away. Not only that, but (based on which part of the last two day's numbers I consider to still be applying tonight) I could quite possibly expect to rise, or fall, OR stay perfectly level overnight.

So bedtime looms and I have to decide whether to take it to the tiebreaker and wait up for some (most?) of the IOB and/or onboard carbs to work their way out along with whatever I decide to guess at to mop up the remaining IOB.

Or I simply munch a little something, retire, and hope for the best!

I am fully aware that my evenings of 'uncertainty tennis' are largely my own doing. Without a CGM, and when things have shifted such that I have little confidence in what I think ought to happen with a dose or correction I find it all too easy to slip into a rapid rally of insulin and carb corrections.

It would be easier to resist if I hadn't had so many evenings when 'just leaving well alone' meant I spent 4 hours in double figures only to eventually correct with what I had thought of doing in the first place. That and the fact that I've played some amazing games in the past where I've aced a high or low BG into flatline submission with some audacious... erm... 'shots' (sorry!).

Strawberries and cream anyone?