By Wil Dubois Email this
I was asked to write about the “patch-pump landscape” today. Well, it’s not much of a landscape. Just one lone tree growing on an endless, flat savanna.
What? You never heard of a patch-pump? Oh. I’m sorry, it’s a type of insulin pump... You know what? Maybe I’d better back up even further to make sure everyone is on board. An insulin pump is a small machine that delivers insulin into your body semi-automatically. It replaces your pancreas, but it sure as hell doesn’t replace your brain; it’s just a fancy syringe. Although, granted, the fanciest syringe you’ve even seen.
Traditionally, pumps were high-tech boxes that held a mini-boatload of electronics and a three-day supply of insulin. A thin plastic tube connected to the pump at one end and to the person with diabetes at the other end – at least until 2007. That’s when the world of pumps changed.
Because that’s the year a company called Insulet brought a novel pump to the U.S. market that was “tubeless.” Called the OmniPod, it featured a “pod” with the insulin supply that slaps on the body, and a wireless controller that operates the pod’s assorted actions. It provided all the many advantages of insulin pumping with the new freedom of being “untethered.” It took a huge bite out of the new pump prescription market, and at the time many industry analysts declared tubeless pumps to be the wave of the future, and that the end of traditional pumps was at hand.
Meanwhile, as the word “pod” was associated in many people’s minds with that particular brand, the nomenclature at some point morphed into “patch-pump” as a generic label for a class of devices that, frankly, didn’t exist at the time. And still doesn’t.
Because all these years later, the OmniPod is still all alone in the American market place; our tree on the savanna. There aren’t any other patch pumps to be had for love nor money. Ummm… where did our future go?
It’s not so much lost. It just missed its train. The future will be here. Eventually. There’re at least 15 companies with patch-pumps in various states of development, but only one other has been FDA approved: the Medingo Solo patch-pump, which was scooped up by giant Roche Diagnostics in 2010 shortly after it was approved. And although it’s been shown by Roche at several trade shows, it seems to have disappeared from the planet since for reasons unclear, but likely having to do with production issues.
Meanwhile, leading the pack overseas are Brittan’s Cellnovo Mobile patch-pump, and Switzerland’s Debiotech Jewel patch-pump. But when any of these, or any of the rest of the pack, will hit the U.S. market is anyone’s guess.
Still, I see patches of trees in your future. Plenty of folks are planting baby trees and watering them. The barren landscape may yet become a forest.