The JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project

Everyone with diabetes can agree on one thing: Life needs to be a whole lot easier. To find that ease, we support research funding, we fight for access and we push for innovation.

Last year, a study published in Diabetes Care touted the need for such technology—an “artificial pancreas” if you will. The study showed that for 101 patients who intensively manage their diabetes (testing nine times each day), glucose numbers fell within the normal range only 30 percent of the day. These patients spent eight hours per day with higher than acceptable glucose readings, and type 1 patients in particular spent more than two hours per day with lower than acceptable glucose readings.

Another study, published earlier this year, showed that patients using continuous glucose monitors spent 21 percent less time low and 23 percent less time high.

These study results are part of the reason the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has initiated the Artificial Pancreas Project. This campaign is designed to research the benefits of continuous glucose monitoring and artificial pancreas technology. Plus, JDRF is doing everything they can to convince lawmakers of the potential found therein.

JDRF’s approach in this initiative is patient-focused, separate from industry. They are commissioning independent, empirical research to assess patient outcomes from use of artificial pancreas-related technologies and to answer regulator and payer questions. They are also educating key decision makers from federal agencies to Congress to insurers.

The part that most impresses me is that they aren’t just arguing for others to fund research—they are putting their money where their mouth is. So far, they have funded several million dollars in grants to independent academic researches. Within the research, JDRF is closely watching patient outcomes, especially those related to overall blood glucose control, hypoglycemia and economics.

At their urging, in May, both houses of Congress sent letters of support for artificial pancreas research to Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt.

Two hundred and thirty-eight House members and 68 senators signed the letters.

The greatest legislative challenge seems to be in the regulatory arena. Some say that the use of these products is like saddling the patient with an extra car payment. The greatest struggle will be getting insurers and providers to consider these products “reasonable and necessary” to provide coverage.

Our government has a track record of paying for procedures, not prevention. That is akin to parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to treat injuries instead of at the top to prevent people from falling. Hopefully, this new push will help lawmakers and officials understand the value of aggressive, preventive care. Clearly, that kind of paradigm shift is what is needed to help control and address this epidemic.

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