Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Control

When you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugars run high for a short period for no discernible reason, you have a checklist of troubleshooting tasks you have to tend to:

  • Am I sick? Getting sick?
  • Am I taking a medication?
  • Am I stressed?
  • Am I more sedentary than usual?
  • Did I overtreat a low blood sugar?
  • Did I underestimate the dose I last took?
  • Did I forget to initiate that dose?
  • Did I even receive the dose I initiated?
  • Is my pump malfunctioning?
  • Is my cannula (catheter) kinked?
  • Is my tissue at that site not absorbing the insulin?
  • Do I have an infected site?
  • Did my insulin go bad?
  • If it did go bad, is the whole glass vial spoiled or did it go bad in the pump cartridge?
  • Are these my unlucky socks?
It's a ridiculous list. And there are times when you run through each point and find half of them that could be the culprit.
I removed this insulin from this pod,
but which of them was the culprit? I'll never know.
I propose that insulin manufacturers consider providing us with some kind of control solution or litmus test to evaluate the efficacy of our insulin.

It would be so easy to prime a drop or two from my pump onto a strip and see evidence that my cartridge insulin was compromised. It would be so easy to draw up a small amount from the glass vial and test it against a control that would allow me to see that I need to open a brand new vial.

Instead, we're asked to discard the whole vial and open a new one. Discard the whole pump setting and insert a new one. Start from scratch. If you can't isolate the variable, just CHANGE ALL THE THINGS.

It usually fixes the problem, but it's not at all economical. A vial of insulin costs me (or my insurance) an arm and a leg ($100+) and to toss one simply because you don't know and can't risk playing around with this shit is inefficient. I'd love to be able to call a pump company and say, "no, it wasn't the insulin - it was your apparatus" or tell Sanofi or Lilly or Novo that "yes, absolutely, my insulin spoils after ___ time in the heat or ___ time in my pump cartridge."

When I was pumping on the t:slim, it was clear to me that the insulin had changed because the color and consistency had changed, but insulin can go bad without those telltale signs. For two days at the Friends for Life conference, I might as well have been pumping water with my Omnipod. My numbers would not come down. A brand new pod and new batch of insulin fixed it, as it did again this morning after 12 hours of highs and 4 separate boluses of insulin and 2 injections. I'm finally below 200 mg/dL.

But would it be so difficult to develop a user-end litmus test for our insulin beyond using my own body as the test subject?

I don't know. But I'd like to find out.


  1. Can I raise my hands in the air and yell, "Hallelujah!" I'm buyin' what your sellin', Melissa!

    This is so so so so needed!

  2. Should we make a petition?? ;) Love the idea, Mel. (May I call you Mel?)

  3. Awesome, awesome, awesome idea. Right now we use 2 different insulins for the girls. It would be very handy to test and see if its bad. Someday we hope to have them both on Apidra again, would be even more important then. Thanks for posting this!

  4. I might never use control solution for test strips, but I would definitely use control solution for insulin!

  5. Yes, yes and yes. I would dearly love insulin to change color when it becomes skunky. Then we would know. Get some scientist on this NOW!

  6. Yes please... Can someone PLEASE do this?

  7. I love this idea ... Brilliant!

  8. This is a great idea, Melissa. Would love to see this materialize, if at all possible.

  9. It is so simple in theory, I hope that someone with the type of brain who can make this happen reads it makes it happen!

  10. Absolutely! 90 years of insulin and we don't have this yet?

  11. This would save me TONS of paranoia! I would absolutely love to have this kind of thing. Genius idea, I can't believe no one has thought of that yet.

  12. "If you can't isolate the variable, just CHANGE ALL THE THINGS." This makes me crazy! When we don't know which variable is the culprit, it's hard/impossible to learn/change/know what to change.

  13. I would really love to see something like this invented. Currently I have no insurance and it's damn expensive buying everything to take care of this disease every month. Some times I have to skimp on certain things, but never my insulin. Over the years I have thrown out numerous bottles of insulin on just a guess that it's bad. I really hope someone out there can invent this for us, we really need it!

  14. What a great idea!! I can't believe someone at the insulin manufacturers hasn't thought of it before (or if they have, why they haven't acted on it)