Insulin pumps better for poor diabetes control

A new study has found that for people with type 2 diabetes who struggle to control their blood sugar levels, insulin pumps are more effective than multiple daily insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes is usually kept under control by diet and medication, but the majority of people with advanced type 2 diabetes will also end up needing insulin therapy to control their blood sugar (glucose) levels.

According to French scientists, around one in three people on insulin therapy have problems achieving the correct blood sugar levels and end up taking multiple insulin injections every day.

An alternative to this is the use of an insulin pump, which is a portable device attached to the body. It delivers continuous amounts of rapid or short-acting insulin through a catheter that is placed under the skin.

Until now, studies that have compared insulin pumps with multiple daily injections have been inconsistent, so the French scientists decided to investigate this further.

They monitored almost 500 adults aged between 30 and 75, all of whom had poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. All were assessed during a two-month lead in period and after that, the 331 participants who still had poor control of their blood sugar levels were randomly assigned to one of two groups – insulin pumps or daily injections.

The study found that insulin pumps were much more effective at controlling blood sugar levels than the daily injections. Participants using the pumps recorded a much greater reduction in their average blood sugar levels after six months than those injecting themselves.

They also spent around three hours less per day in hyperglycaemia, which refers to when blood sugar levels are too high.

Furthermore, by the end of the study period, those in the pump group were using 20% less insulin per day compared to those injecting themselves.

“Pumps enhance effective insulin absorption and increase insulin sensitivity thanks to the continuous daily subcutaneous insulin delivery. Our findings open up a valuable new treatment option for those individuals failing on current injection regimens and may also provide improved convenience, reducing the burden of dose tracking and scheduling, and decreasing insulin injection omissions,” the scientists said.

Details of these findings are published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

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