Posted by on Friday 13 January 2023

Hybrid Closed Loop Insulin Pumps (Artificial Pancreas) - The Basics


It's been a while eh?!

Sorry about that. Truth be told, it's all got rather busy for me, and actually since my last post in my early months on the Tandem tSlim x2, my diabetes has mercifully faded into the background a little, and while still very annoying, hasn't really given me all that much to write about.

But this week has seen the release of something really quite exciting, that I hadn't even realised was happening. It seems those smart cookies at NICE have been munching the clinical trial data and developing a Technology Appraisal for Hybrid Closed Loop insulin pumps (which is the latest bit of tech to be enthusiastically called 'the artificial pancreas', none of which so far are much like having an actual artificial pancreas, but I digress...).

NICE TA10845 is now out for consultation so that stakeholders can review it and make suggestions or ask some pointy questions before publication. It's the same process that the 2015 NICE Guidelines for Adults with T1 which I worked on went through. But what's potentially exciting about a Technology Appraisal, is that while NICE Guidelines are just that - an indication of what the evidence shows to be the better approaches - TAs potentially have more clout, and if the clinician decides that the TA recommends a treatment option for a particular person the funding has to be provided. If the draft is published in its current form it has the potential to open the door to the previously hen's teeth elusive pump-and-CGM combination to around 25% of people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK.

Of course some of these people may have little knowledge of this combination of technologies which has been around for a while, but access to which (certainly with funded CGM) has been notoriously difficult to obtain. And there's quite a bit to get your head around, because it's a combination of several different bits of diabetes kit all working together, but not completely automatically. For all the claims of 'artificial pancreas', there are still quite a few things that you need to do to as the wearer.

From my own experience, having some of my diabetes kit actively helping me out, and looking out for me has been a huge help and a massive leap forward. A hybrid closed loop can't do everything, but it really helps me smooth off the edges of my blood glucose guesswork. It gives me much more confidence, and my results have never been better. I'd find it very difficult to go back, even if (as seems likely from the draft criteria) I still need to self-fund my CGM sensors.

A year or two ago Diabetes UK were putting together an introduction to Hybrid Closed Loops, for which I recorded a bit of video. However in the end it was far too waffly for Diabetes UK to use, so they interviewed me for a few comments instead. But this recent announcement has seemed like the perfect opportunity to inflict it on the world. Sorry about that.

So here is a basic overview of what a Hybrid Closed Loop insulin pump is, how it works, and what it's actually like to live with.

Watch this a little larger on my YouTube channel.