Posted by on Friday, 20 March 2015

Thoughts from the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2015

I'm a bit late posting this, but I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts following last week's Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2015 (#dpc15). I was, as the saying goes, dead chuffed to be invited to be one of the bloggers/tweeters co-opted onto Diabetes UK's Press Team for the three day conference in London's sunny docklands where the great and the good of the world's diabetes healthcare professionals, researchers and pharma companies gather for a good old chinwag about all things pancreatically challenged.

DPC is one of the biggest events in the global diabetes calendar and patients are not normally allowed to attend for complex reasons involving a Pharmaceutical Industry code of practice (and possibly also so that they can speak fluent doctor-technobabble unhindered and don't have to watch what they are saying about how bloomin' annoying patients are and how the whole business would be much easier without us). However as honourary members of the Press Team we were encouraged to tweet, blog and generally feed information from the conference to the world at large, including you lot.

It was the first time I have been at an event anything like this and it was absolutely huge. Whatever presentation you were attending you got the distinct impression that there were at least six other things running simultaneously that you'd like to be having a look at. Attendance this year was apparently bigger than ever, though #DOC peeps who had been to previous conferences commented that Excel's cavernous spaces made it seem a bit more spread out.

At least as valuable as the presentations themselves seem to be the incidental networking and bumping-into opportunities. Everywhere you went people near you were meeting up, rekindling connections and sharing information. People who have attended more than a few of these conferences must have quite a hard time getting to any sessions at all, because there are so many people to chat with as you move from one place to another.

On a personal level it was great to be able to meet again, or for the first time with so many amazing members of the DOC incuding, Grumps, Annie A, Laura, Sandy, Charlotte, Hannah, John, Annie C, Kath, Roz, Lis, Partha, Pratik, Pete, Neil and others whom I have doubtless forgotten (sorry!). It was also a great privilege to meet with Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK who took time out of her hectic schedule to meet with the bloggers/tweeters and stayed chatting longer than she had intended. She was quite an inspiration, and seemed genuinely interested in listening to feedback and input from the diabetes coal face - about what matters to people with diabetes and their families. Someone commented that Diabetes UK often get a hard time about occasional gaffes, but rarely seem to blow their own trumpet when they do make a positive impact (like here, where they have got the Government to change ther mind about prescription fines). It was only a brief conversation, but it was quite uplifting and I got the feeling that DUK was in very safe hands. It was great too to be able to meet up with representatives of various pharma and device companies that I have bumped into over the last few years to get a feel for any exciting new toys that might be in the pipeline.

Between us, the bloggers/tweeters tried to divide up and 'live tweet' from as many sessions as possible. This proved to be quite a challenge as the talks are short and intensely packed with information, new research data and other interesting snippets. By the time you have tried to compose a phrase which is as close to a quote as you can remember, with or without a photo of the projected slide and then edited for 140 characters, the speaker has chased on at a rate of knots and you are playing catch up.

Here are a few thoughts from some of the sessions I covered, based on the hasty notes I took:

Could intermittent fasting have a role in diabetes management? Michelle Harvie, Manchester
Short answer, yes. For people with type 2 diabetes various intermittent fasting apporaches (eg 5:2) seem to be easier to stick to and more effective for weight loss than continual energy restricted approaches. Fasting days in the research data tended to be approx 650cals and low carb, but results were equally good if low carb but not calorie restricted. For those in whom the approach worked there tended to be an effect on the non-fasting days too. Even though people *could* eat more freely, they did not necessarily do so.

Fermentable carbohydrates: Their role in diabetes management Nicola Guess, London
Not something I'd really heard of, but fermentable carbohydrate (think dietary fibre... pulses... resistant starch... oats...) seem to have promising effect in the context of type 2 diabetes. Results were a little mixed across different studies, not least perhaps because it can be quite hard to evaluate how much FC is in different foods. It may act as a sort of appetite suppressant. When 21g was given as a dietary supplement it resulted in reduced energy intake for the diet of people with Type 2 even if they were not asked to eat less. Fermentable carb was shown to have a positive effect on the phase 1 insulin response of people with type2 and even non diagnosed family members. Insulin sensitivity has been shown to improve in the presence of fermentable carb too. Unfortunately too much fermentable carb can have unfortunate gastric side effects - the gas released from the fermentation of pulses in the gut being an obvious example.

Advancing inpatient diabetes care 5 presentations chaired by Gerry Rayman, Ipswich
This was an extremely data-rich overview from some new JBDS data, including effective new protocols for management of people on corticosteroids and variable rate insulin infusion (sliding scale) in inpatient settings. Also presented a was a huge new piece of research by Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals into nationwide outcomes/detail of DKA management. Some of which was pretty scary stuff - the risk to inpatients with diabetes of experiencing Severe Hypoglycaemia for people with diabetes is 1 in 50 and risk of developing DKA while in hospital is 1 in 200. As alarming as this presentation might have been there was certainly a sense of concerted effort to tackle the challenges of inpatient management of diabetes and establish effective protocols that improve outcomes.

3DFD Integrating Diabetes Care into an individual's world Mary McKinnon Lecture by Carol Gayle and Khalida Ismail, London
I was really taken by this presentation. It outlined a 'three dimensional' model for improving diabetes care by fully integrating clinical, psychological and social approaches. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with every major type of psychological disorder, and people with any of these mental health challenges find self-management of this complex and fickle condition additionally challenging. In addition, people living with severe social deprivation are significantly less able to self-manage. Put simply, diabetes is way down on their list of priorities. Address other areas in patients' lives (housing/debt/mental health) and they are released into better self care.

The 3DFD is a short-term intervention with a lasting impact and has moved from an interesting research idea to become a commissioned service in several UK locations. Initially seen as a 'luxury service' it is not only cost-effective, but actually pays for itself several times over in terms of savings made in other areas.

Lessons from the study of hypoglycaemia RD Lawrence Lecture, Rory McCrimmon, Dundee
Some really interesting stuff here about what happens when the body is subjected to repeated mild hypoglycaemia. The exact brain and body chemistry that is at work in the loss of hypo warning signs, and also the loss of counter-regulatory hormone response (epinephrine/glucagon/liver dump). Initially the brain fires all it's warning bells when blood glucose levels drop too low, but soon enough it learns to adapt. Attempting to 'perform better' at those lower levels and not expending the energy of those warning signs. Ultimately though, the brain can no longer function at the lower and lower glucose concentrations that can be reached without warning. Avoidance of hypoglycaemia can reverse this and 'reset the switch', but many struggle with undetected nocturnal hypoglycaemia which sets back their efforts.

Integration of psychologists into paediatric services 3 presentations chaired by Mark Davies
It was really good to see psychological support given so much coverage at the conference. Particularly in relation to children and young people where effective and timely psychological interventions can have such a dramatic effect.

Workshop: Psychological techniques for addressing hypoglycaemia unawareness Nicole de Zoysa and Victoria Francis, London
Great stuff here from the folks behind DAFNE HART, a successful pilot which demonstrates the importance of psychological support in changing people's behavior and understanding of their own relationship with hypoglycaemia. It was particularly good to see the 'compare and contrast' conversation scenarios between healthcare provider and PWD. The difference between people feeling told off/lectured and people being supported to make positive change through responsive listening and motivational interviewing.

Social Media, Why Bother with a Fad? Partha Kar, Annie Cooper, Roz Davies and Laura Cleverly
Great to see social media and peer support getting such a good response at a conference like this. Topics covered ranged from social media in support of nursing practice; tackling isolation and the building of patient communities; and whether social media could be the 'missing part' of someone's diabetes care. Not only that, but Partha Kar opened his talk by suggesting that the term 'non compliant' be removed from the diabetes phrasebook as a result of some social media interactions at the conference. The session ended with a frantic live Tweet Chat and I just hope that some of those who saw the presentations might begin to consider how to integrate social media/peer support into their own practice.

Cognitive decline in people with diabetes 3 presentations chaired by Richard Holt, Southampton
A bit of a mixed bag across these three presentations. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes seem to associate with 'cognitive decrement' (which I don't like the sound of to be honest), though this only subtle and does not seem to worsen over time. When it comes to type 2 diabetes the Edinburgh study suggests that vascular changes may be the predominant factor. Blood pressuse has little effect, HbA1c has a small effect but smoking has much more of an effect. Overall, improved diabetes management and lack of diabetes complications seem to be a good thing as far as keeping your marbles is concerned. Conversely people with both Alzheimers and T2D are at significantly increased risk of severe hypoglycaemia.

When it comes to young people, there did not seem to be much evidence that mild hypoglycaemia was associated with impaired cognitive function in the long term. Though there may be small risks to very young children who experience severe hypoglycaemia and coma, the brain quickly becomes more resilient in older children and young people.

Hot topics - Diabetes and cardio-vascular risk 4 presentations chaired by Naveed Sattar and Jiten Vora
I was particuarly struck during Miles Fisher's presentation about assessing cardio-vascular risk in people with diabetes when he described the decision to recommend statins for the primary prevention of CVD in people with type 1 diabetes as an 'OBSAT' decision. With a twinkle in his eye he explained the acronym as 'old boys sat around a table'. He suggested that the research evidence did not support the recommendation and that there was a risk of 'over medicalising' the population. His opinion was that the presence of micro-abuminuria was a more reliable marker for prescribing statins for primary prevention in T1D.

In general terms intensively managing blood glucose levels, the earlier the better, significantly protects against CHD for people with diabetes.

Physical activity and Type 1 3 presentations chaired by Jason Gill, Glasgow
This was my last session of the conference and the one that provoked perhaps the greatest interest on Twitter. One of the slides in Rob Andrew's presentation showed a flow chart which seemed to contradict itself. Beamed off into the ether without the explanatory dialogue many people responded, "Ehhhhhhh?!" but the presentation had moved on apace. A lesson learned perhaps in the perils of trying to share complex ideas in 140 characters at speed. There was a lot of detail from Rob Andrew about managing exercise and type 1 diabetes, you can find more information here when the site launches soon. Some interesting snippets too from Richard Bracken about bone strength in T1D. I had not realised that type 1 was associated with an increased risk of fractures, but it seems that resistance training can help improve bone condition and strength.

Summary
On the whole I was really encouraged by the conference programme, and by the tangible sense of passion and commitment from those working in the field who are aiming for better outcomes and more personalised care for people with diabetes. Huge thanks to Diabetes UK for inviting me to be a part of the event.

Disclosure: My travel, accommodation and entry to the conference were paid for by Diabetes UK. I was not paid to write this post or any tweets relating to #DPC15.

Posted by on Monday, 9 March 2015

Abbott Freestyle Libre available to new customers again

There were excited murmerings on Facebook last week and on Friday I received a phone call that confirmed what many, many people have been waiting for over the last few months.

Abbott have begun to take on new customers for the Freestyle Libre again

Wooooo hoooooooo!!!

I think it is probably fair to say that Abbott were a little taken aback by the level of demand for their new toy immediately after launch (the Libre 'flash' glucose not-quite-CGM monitor). It wasn't long before they realised that consumer enthusiasm was going to outstrip their production capabilites and they took a tough decision to stop taking on new customers in order to protect supply to those who had signed up first. Probably the right thing to do, but pretty frustrating for many people - myself included, who hadn't quite got around to registering with their e-shop early on.

Some people have got quite cross about this, but I'm more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. This was a completely new piece of technology in a relatively small market place (certainly in the UK). They had to anticipate what sort of level of early take-up there might be, but it's not entirely surprising that they didn't get it spot-on. And deciding to limit supply so that fewer people got better service rather than many people getting rubbish service seems to have quite a consumer-focussed feel to it. They didn't just take everyone's money and not deliver, they concentrated on ensuring that those who signed up early could get full-time sensor coverage if they wanted it.

But for the rest of us, the weeks turned into months... and still we waited.

Until now.

As of last week they have begun to issue emails to people who signed up on the website. They are doing this on a 'first come first served' basis, so those who asked to be told when Libre was available to new customers in October/November 2014 will be hearing first.

Of course they will have to weed out a bunch of dead results from those expressions of interest. People who have changed their minds and so on - so if you recive an email you will need to act on it pretty promptly.

According to what I've been told by Abbott, it works like this:
  • People will receive an email alert which (I think!) outlines the process
  • People then recive a second email which gives them a relatively short window of opportunity to respond
  • They then need to sign up as a new customer
  • You also need to place an initial order to activate your account (minimum of one sensor approx £50)
  • Thereafter a maximum of 2 sensors can be ordered every 14 days

Looking forward to receiving my email :)

Posted by on Thursday, 26 February 2015

25 not out - stick THAT up your nose diabetes!

At some point during the last week (I'm not entirely sure which day) I made my quarter century of living, more or less successfully, with type 1 diabetes. Twenty five years later and I've still got both feet, my eyes are pretty much unscathed and my kidneys still seem able to cope with clearing up after all the stuff I throw at them. Not a bad effort.

Also this week, I stumbled across two interlinked snippets of information that interested me:

We're dooooooooomed!

The first came via a retweet from Dr Pratik Choudary about some research from the T1D Exchange that suggests that the longer you have lived with type 1 diabetes, the more likely you are to experience severe hypoglycaemia (needing assistance of a third party, family member, friend or paramedic to recover). I've come across Pratik's work during my sifting of research for the NICE Guidelines update, and he seems to have his finger on the pulse, so was intrigued - interesting people sharing interesting stuff...

I confess I was slightly surprised at the findings. I suppose in a sense there is a certain logic to them, older people will have any residual 'helping hand' action from their own pancreas long gone, and more opportunity to have succumbed to a degree of hypoglycaemia unawareness. Still a bit odd that incidence of severe hypoglycaemia looks to increase year on year though - I would have expected a good deal of difficulty in managing BG in early childhood (tiny doses... erratic hormones... growth spurts... irregular physical activity) and certainly during teenage years (rebellion... wanting to fit in... more growth spurts and raging hormones). Even during young adulthood and middle years there's a degree of chaos going on with life in general. Particularly if people become parents themselves - when focussing entirely on yourself tends to slip into the background, replaced with sleep deprivation and general exhaustion. By contrast my own life seems to have become slightly more settled post-40. Much more time to sort out my own stuff.

When we began writing our blog it was not at all uncommon for Jane to have to help me out early in the morning from a nasty low (thanks Lantus!). When I look back, I am ashamed that I put everyone through this for so many years and did not sort it out earlier. But thanks to the support, wit and wisdom of the DOC, over the last few years I have gone a long way to reduce my hypoglycaemia in general and severe hypoglycaemia in particular. I can't remember the least time I got so low that someone in the family had to lend me a hand - but it was probably three or four years ago.

I for one have exactly the opposite experience of the T1D Exchange findings. What about you? If you are living with type 1, are you seeing more or less severe hypoglycaemia than before? Should we accept an increase in severe hypoglycaemia as inevitable*?

* The answer, of course, is NO!

Nasal Glucagon

Photo: Mike Hoskins
The second thing that caught my eye came as an email, following a presentation at the Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) conference in Paris last week, concerning a novel new glucagon treatment that is in development. Glucagon is used as an emergency treatment for severe hypoglycaemia. Currently it involves injecting sterile water into a vial of powder, mixing into solution and injecting into a person who has become so hypoglycaemic that they are either unconscious or otherwise unable to consume any high glucose treatment. Glucagon is a great treatment, but the current delivery method is pretty complex. I first came across the 'nasal puff' concept via Mike Hoskins in the US, who posted on Diabetes Mine following involvement in a trial of the device. It's ingenious! Developed by a tiny private company with parents of T1D children at the helm, it seems driven by passion and practicality.

I know that when I have tried to mention Glucagon kits to anyone among my family and friends they immediately take on a distinctly 'rabbit in the headlights' expression and start mumbling about "erm... yes... or I'd call an ambulance". The idea that at a time of extreme stress, possibly in the middle of the night, someone entirely untrained in giving injections would be able to calmly proceed through a multi-step process of mixing, drawing up, selecting injection site and administering (especially if I were thrashing about) seems crazy.

This new treatment involves simply 'puffing' dry powder up the nose. It doesn't need to be inhaled (designed for people who may be unconscious), simply pushing the base of the container ejects a cloud of dry glucagon into the nasal passages where it is absorbed directly. No needles, no mixing, no faffing about in the dark.

The device is not currently available, but phase 3 clinical trials are currently underway and I will watch the story with interest.

Disclosure: I was not paid to mention Locemia's nasal glucagon device (ha! chance would be a fine thing!). It just sounds like a great idea.

Posted by on Tuesday, 27 January 2015

6.5% A1c target - A reply to a comment that got out of hand

I've had a couple of comments on my post about the proposed new HbA1c target in the draft NICE guideline that is currently out for consultation. I was rattling in a 'quick' reply, when I thought - this is *ridiculous*. I can't even see this any more in this tiny box - so I've decided to post it here instead :)

Here are the comments:
Tamer Hassan said...
how do you achieve these numbers?

thanks
Tim said...
These numbers are impossible to reach...
Or at least give me some suggestions on how to reach these levels. Thanks.
Tim

'How to reach these numbers' is a question for your healthcare provider really. Don't just ask some random nutter on the Internet! However (and desperately trying to avoid sounding like Mr Smug of No 22 Smug Gardens, Bigheadshire) I have had a sub 6.5% HbA1c for over 3 years now, so I know that it *is* possible if only perhaps for the lucky few. Plus I've never had fewer hypos in my life with diabetes either - so it's not that I am 'paying' for A1c improvements with the hefty cost of Severe Hypoglycaemia.

I cannot really tell why some people seem to put in so much effort and get such scant rewards, and that is why I think individualised targets are SO important.

But it does seem pretty clear to me that the closer you can get to those standard-issue BG targets (5-7mmol/L waking, 4-7mmol/L pre meals and <9mmol/L by 2 hours after meals) for as many days in the week as you can manage, the closer you will get to these kind of tough, aspirational, borderline non-diabetic A1c targets. My own HbA1c has fallen by around 1.5% in recent years, and I think only around 0.5% of that is attributable to the pump - though Artoo has gone a LONG way to reduce my number of irritating low-level hypoglycaemia dips. When I look back over the changes that I have made in recent years I can see a few things that I think were important. I don't offer these as any kind of guide or advice - it's just what I did.

  1. Education. Get access to proper structured education regarding diabetes management. In the UK we have DAFNE which is highly thought of, but other options are available. Things that should be included (in my opinion) are:
    1. carbohydrate counting, working out how to check and change insulin:carb ratios for different times of the day
    2. SMBG technique - when to test and what to do with the results *including* basal testing to PROPERLY adjust basal on an ongoing basis
    3. correction factors - when and how to correct (with insulin or fast-acting carbs) to aim bring you back into range without jumping aboard the gluco-coaster
    4. exercise and alcohol
    5. dealing with illness
    If structured education courses are not available in your country/area you can do a lot worse than buying 'Think like a pancreas' (Scheiner), 'Type 1 Diabetes' (Hanas) or 'Pumping Insulin' (Walsh/Roberts) which cover much the same ground. Though the benefit of peer support in group sessions should not be underestimated


  2. Test more often AND RECORD THE RESULTS. Find some way of keeping notes daily as you go along. What you are eating, units and timing of doses (how long before... split doses...), exercise, mood, everything! Without a fairly detailed set of records I find it impossible to see what is going on. Personally I still love mySugr for this.


  3. Gadgets - seek out new tech that can help you manage your diabetes more easily. It might be a 0.5u pen; a smartphone tracking app, or copy of 'Carbs and Cals'; or it might be a BG meter with a bolus wizard so that you can have properly fine-tuned ratios without having to worry about keeping the maths easy. Additionally, ask your clinic about access to Insulin Pump therapy and CGM.


  4. Seek peer support - join a forum or two, join Twitter, read some blogs (thanks!) or even *crazy!* join a local group and meet face to face. Living with diabetes is tough, but it's even harder if you are battling on your own. For everyone there's a little corner of the internet that can provide support, encouragement and shared experiences.



At the end of the day we each have to find our own balance between living a life and managing our diabetes. Somewhere in the middle you'll find your perfect A1c and it won't drain all the joy out of life to reach it.

Good luck :)

Posted by on Saturday, 17 January 2015

Medtronic MiniMed 640G 'SmartGuard' Pump - Preview

The Medtronic 640G launches Feb 2015
I was absolutely made up to receive an email a few weeks back that invited me to go along to the Medtronic UK 'Bloggers and Patient Advocate' meeting in sunny Watford today. It seems that Medtronic are keen to connect a little more with the diabetes online community in the UK, share a little of what they are up to and generally get some grass roots feedback. The group is a mix of MDI and pump users (Medtronic, Animas and Roche, with and without various CGM alternatives all present). It includes both people with diabetes and parents of children or young people with diabetes. It was lovely to meet up with a glittering array of familiar and less familiar faces, Annie (@understudypanc), Lesley (@INPUTdiabetes), Laura (@ninjabetic1 and #ourD), Lindsay (@LwSweetpea88), Sue (@desangsue), Dave (@SowerBee), Chris (@grumpy_pumper), Paul (@TheTeamBG and #GBdoc), Gavin (@Diathlete), Kris (@diabeticbanana), Kyle (of @mysugr), plus @JDRFUK youth ambassador George (and his mum!). We were joined by 6 folks from Medtronic who were very excited by some of their new toys that are just about to launch. I believe that this group has met several times before with more of a 'brain-picking' workshop feel, but today was much more of a full-on sales pitch with a sneak peek of the new MiniMed 640G insulin pump which launches in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Australia on the 1st 2nd of February (regrettably it looks like FDA approval for the US could take years). We were lucky enough to get a short amount of hands-on time to play with the 640G and I just wanted to share a little of what I saw today. I won't be able to go into too much detail for a full-on review here I'm afraid, because there was LOT of information shared and while I tried to take some notes, all too quickly we had to hand the devices back in. Plus since the official website doesn't launch for another couple of weeks I've nothing to check against. I will try to get someone from Medtronic to glance over the post and set me straight if any of this is complete nonsense. I'll post (and add think about ignore mark) corrections as necessary :)

Those familiar with Medtronic's Veo may have come across the term 'Low Glucose Suspend', the facility where overnight the Veo (when used with Enlite CGM sensors) can automatically stop basal insulin supply if the pump detects a predetermined low glucose threshold has been passed. This has been shown to significantly reduce the severity and duration of overnight hypoglycaemia in clinical trials and was welomed (particularly by parents of T1 children) as a major step forward towards developing the 'artificial pancreas'.

The MiniMed 640G takes this approach to a whole new level with 'SmartGuard', an algorithm that begins to take effect significantly before you have hit your 'low' level, attempting to dodge some of those pesky hypos altogether. The sensors are Enlites again, but with a new (and apparently much improved) 'Guardian Link' transmitter to boost performance.

More on that later, but first a quick overview:
  • Colour screen which apparently reads easily in sunlight
  • Waterproof (yay!) including swimming
  • Reservoirs available in either 180u and 300u
  • Up to 5 different basal patterns with up to 48 rates per 24 hours each.
  • Pairs with Contour Next Link USB (new 2.4 version)
  • Limited bolus options via meter, full bolus wizard on pump
  • Completely re-worked interface with many more 'user-friendly' options and updates
  • More customisable alarms (and at louder volumes)
  • Already licensed for use by children
  • Size-wise it's very similar to the Veo, just a few millimeters taller, wider and deeper

SmartGuard
The thing Medtronic were clearly most excited about was obviously 'SmartGuard', so it's probably worth trying to note down what I can remember about how that works. SmartGuard builds significantly on the premise of Low Glucose Suspend by making the whole thing much more predictive. While Low Glucose Suspend only kicks in when you are already registering low, SmartGuard acts earlier trying to head off the low by temporarily stopping basal (in much the same way I started doing while wearing a Libre sensor - see 'new technique'). They had a snazzy graph in the presentation to explain how it works, which I've attempted to recreate here. On the pump you set a 'low' limit that you do not wish to fall below - anywhere between 2.8 and 5.0 in 0.2mmol/L increments. Above that the pump sets additional 1.1mmol/L and 3.9mmol/L guides. SmartGuard is triggered if sensor glucose values fall below that upper line (3.9 above your low limit) AND are falling sharply enough that you are predicted to fall below the 1.1 line within 30 minutes. All insulin is stopped for at least 30 minutes from that point (including basal and any partial dual or square waves still in progress). If your numbers stay down, the insulin stays off for a maximum of 2 hours. Basal delivery (only) automatically resumes once you have risen above the 1.1 line AND are predicted to remain there for the next 30 minutes. Users can, of course, cancel the SmartGuard intervention at any point (eg if they would prefer to treat the impending low with some tasty fast-acting carbs. Rather neatly you can also choose whether or not the 640G alarms or alerts at any of those points and even tailor what times of the day (or night) to switch SmartGuard on or off. Alternatively you can simply run the system as the current Low Glucose Suspend works.

It was claimed that in the 'Pilgrim' study, the same algorithm that powers SmartGuard was able to avoid 80% of potential hypoglycaemic events both day and night. If those results could be reproduced 'in the wild' it would be nothing short of groundbreaking. A handful of people have recently been able to use the 640G on a trial basis at Kings College Hospital and two of them (including @desangsue) shared their experiences. Responses from other hands-on users are also very encouraging and seem to suggest that many found SmartGuard alone was sufficient to cope with moderate exercise. After a short while to build trust, many were also happy to simply let SmartGuard do its thing silently and alarm-free, only realising when checking the pump later that they had been spared a low-level dip here or there by some automated basal jiggery-pokery. The only mandatory alarm that sounds would be if your sensor glucose fell below your 'low limit'. This is a good thing. But the customisability of those alarms, while preventative action is automatically taken without confirmation being required seems to go a long way to prevent CGM 'alarm fatigue'.

Fancy new meter
The 640G pairs with a Bayer meter that looks just like the existing Contour Next USB, but this souped-up '2.4' version has some extra cleverness under the hood. For starters you can use it to deliver a quick manual bolus of any number of units you choose without having to fish the 640G out of your pocket. You can also create up to 8 bolus presets (which can include predetermined square or dual-wave options and doses) on the 640G that can be fired from the meter. Frustratingly you cannot vary the doses of these presets from the meter itself at the point of delivery - which would make this much more useful for me - and neither can the meter act as a fully fledged bolus wizard as it does with Roche pumps. However *some* meter bolus options are certainly better than none, and I can see that these could be very useful for snacks and preset mini-corrections or standard preboluses. The new BG meter also acts as the USB conduit for uploading data to the Carelink software package which (mercifully) is also getting a complete overhaul very soon.

Sensors schmensors
That's all very well you may say, but I'm about as likely to get funding for full time sensors as I am to become the next Pope - is this all about SmartGuard, or is there anything here for non-CGMers?

It is true that Medtronic are putting a lot of emphasis on SmartGuard - they are keen to describe the 640G as a 'system' rather than just a pump. It seems they are trying to work with Healthcare Professionals and NICE, seeking to allow more people to access this sensor augmented, 'virtual pancreas' approach. Swift murmerings were made about price points and volume but no real detail given as to if (and how much) sensor cost may fall if there is a greater uptake.

However even without all that sci-fi automation there is much here to please regular pumpers.

A colour screen is pretty much a given these days, but the layout and icons here are well thought through and in themselves allow quick access to a detailed and drillable overview, similar to but richer than the 'back button' on old MiniMed pumps. Bolus and basal adjustments are available direct from the 'home' screen, and everything is navigated by the 4-way/OK controller plus two other buttons - one for 'menu', the other for 'back'. Pleasingly, pressing and holding the 'back' button takes you directly to the home screen however deeply you are embedded in within menu options, which is a nice touch.

A great deal of attention seems to have been paid to the available options to make the pump more customisable and personalisable for individual users. For many things (such as basal patterns) you can now choose named versions eg 'work day' or 'illness' that make them more self explanatory to use, alternatively you can still opt for the more usual numbered options. You also have the option of setting all sorts of presets, including temporary basal rates of predefined length/intensity (again with named alternatives). Whatever you choose to populate from the available options in setup screens get shown in the selection menus, but you don't have to wade through dozens of items that you never use if you don't want to set them up. So you might choose to set just two of eight available TBR presets one for 'moderate activity' and another for 'light activity', then when setting a TBR you can choose either of those or dial in a custom one. Overall it felt logical, intuitive and that several regular tasks would be faster to achieve. The added complexity might mean an additional button-press here or there for one or two things, but in the hour or so we had to play with the 640G most things I wanted to access within a few presses I could.

Battery life is anticipated to be around 2-4 weeks, depending on use. The 640G needs the slightly larger AA batteries (rather than the Veo's AAAs) to power the colour screen. In the top menu bar the battery (and other) icons re-colour to indicate their status. On the battery front, as well as the usual 'low battery' warnings at 25% and again (if I remember right) at 5% there is also an inbuilt 'get out of jail' rechargeable battery that will allow the pump to limp on for up to 8 hours if you find yourself stranded in a motorway traffic jam or somewhere with no shops over a Bank Holiday having paid no attention to the icons/alerts when you set off. I also unwittingly tested the "what happens if you need to change battery in the middle of things" situation and a trial TBR I had set running happily carried on after I took the battery out to have a look. Another neat trick is that the standard-issue belt clip can be swiftly detached and is moulded in such a way that it can be used instead of a coin to unscrew the battery cap. Just a nice bit of attention to detail which speaks highly of the amount of effort Medtronic have put into the design of things.

Infusion sets and reservoirs are exactly the same ones used in the Veo, but special mention must go to the 'Infusion set change' alarm which you can set as a reminder. This particularly caught the imagination of Paul B who said that as a feature, it was pretty much enough to win him over on its own.

My biggest disappointment on the day was to discover that those infernal (and entirely useless) TBR hourly chimes are still present on the MiniMed 640G and it doesn't look like you can turn them off either. After all the effort that has clearly gone into usability and user-experience... The mind boggles.

To be honest I'm going to have to stop there - it's suddenly got rather late and I had thought I was just jotting down some quick notes. It was a very interesting day and there were other snippets (such as the iPort) that will have to follow later.

In short, I will have had Artoo for 4 years in November this year, at which point the warranty runs out and my robot counterpart begins to live on borrowed time. While I'm not champing at the bit for a new pump, I had absently been wondering what I might look at next. I am still interested to find out more about Roche's Insight pump. Omnipods don't feel right for me, and until today I was fairly certain that the Animas Vibe was my front runner because of Dexcom integration (and longer sensor life if I ever take the plunge to self fund). I know that for many the lack of a fully functioning remote handset on the 640G will be a dealbreaker, but that really doesn't bother me much. Today has given me much to think about and Medtronic's new offering very clearly sets itself apart in the market by doing something that absolutely no other pump can do.

Disclosure. Medtronic generously paid my train fare and laid on a tasty lunch. I was not asked and have not been paid to write this post or publicise their products in any way, but thought you lot might be interested.