Diabetes: United Kingdom becomes first to offer ‘artificial pancreas’ on the public network

Diabetes: United Kingdom becomes first to offer ‘artificial pancreas’ on the public network
Diabetes: United Kingdom becomes first to offer ‘artificial pancreas’ on the public network
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Photo caption,

The technology automates the release of insulin into the bloodstream

Article information
  • author, Nick Triggle
  • Roll, BBC News Health Correspondent
  • 2 hours ago

The system uses a glucose sensor under the skin to automatically calculate the amount of insulin delivered through a pump.

However, British public health officials warn that it could take up to five years for all eligible patients to receive the equipment.

This is due to the challenges of obtaining a sufficient number of devices, as well as the need to train more employees on how to use them in practice.

In trials, the technology — officially known as a closed-loop hybrid system — improved quality of life and reduced the risk of long-term health complications.

At the end of last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which evaluates the incorporation of new technologies into the British public health network, said that the NHS should adopt the artificial pancreas.

Almost 300,000 people have type 1 diabetes in the UK, including around 29,000 children.

In Brazil, the International Diabetes Federation estimates that the disease affects 588 thousand individuals. The incorporation of the artificial pancreas into the Unified Health System (SUS) is debated, but there is no expectation that the technology will be approved and implemented in the country.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin, an important hormone that helps turn food into energy.

Patients affected by the condition need to closely monitor their blood sugar, or glucose, levels and administer insulin every day, through injections or a pump.

The new technology does this automatically, as it can virtually mimic the function of a pancreas — although it still requires information about carbohydrate intake to be entered into an app for the system to work more accurately.

The artificial pancreas was developed to prevent people with type 1 diabetes from having low or high blood glucose levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar represents a risk to their lives.

Additionally, the device also helps improve overall glucose control, which means the chance of complications — such as heart, kidney and eye disease — decreases.

Gemma Lavery, who lives in Plymouth, England, started using the device after taking part in an NHS pilot project. She says the artificial pancreas transformed her life.

“I no longer have to worry about work-related stress affecting my blood glucose levels, as the closed loop helps resolve this before it becomes a problem,” she says.

“I can get a full night’s sleep without worrying about low glucose levels disrupting my morning routine. I’ve also found that my diabetes is more stable.”

‘Incredibly exciting’

Professor Partha Kar, who serves as the NHS diabetes specialist adviser, said the incorporation of the artificial pancreas represents “great news for everyone with type 1 diabetes”.

“This futuristic technology not only improves medical care but also improves patients’ quality of life,” he adds.

Dr Clare Hambling, clinical director of diabetes for the NHS in England, believes the new technology “has the power to redefine the lives” of people with type 1 diabetes.

“The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can go unnoticed for many people. So if you are worried about some symptoms, such as urinating more frequently, feeling excessively thirsty, being more tired and losing weight, please see a specialist”, she advises .

Colette Marshall, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says “it’s incredibly exciting to see the launch of this technology.”

“This is truly a landmark moment.”

Nice approved the implementation of the system in the NHS last December.

The NHS then set out a five-year plan on how to provide the equipment to eligible patients.

Nice recommends the use of the artificial pancreas for people with type 1 diabetes who meet certain criteria, including children and people under 18 years of age, pregnant women and people with glycated hemoglobin (a test taken from a blood sample) greater than 7.5%.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Diabetes United Kingdom offer artificial pancreas public network

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