Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum: Another brick in the wall

When we were walking back from dinner on the last night of the Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum, someone mentioned a song lyric. Only I didn’t know it was a song lyric because there was a large chunk of my childhood where I was not allowed to listen to secular music.

There was one exception. On long road trips my dad would play Pink Floyd “The Wall.” Of course, I loved “Another Brick in the Wall” with the kids choir singing in the background. “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” That’s a little how I felt about the first part of last weekend’s forum.

Meat before pudding. Vegetables before dessert.

Since it was on the top of most of our minds, the first item on the agenda was the MiniMed 530G with Enlite and more specifically, its approval process. I am far from a technology expert, so the best I can do is explain it how I understand it.

When the MiniMed530G with Enlite was approved by the FDA, it was approved using a new class of devices – “Artificial Pancreas Device System, Threshold Suspend.”

Looking at pump history in the Medtronic museum
Looking at pump history in the Medtronic museum.

Using that wording, MiniMed marketed the pump as the first of its kinds using “artificial pancreas technology.” That phrase made many people less than happy about the new technology. People with diabetes knew it wasn’t the artificial pancreas, while unknowing family and friends sent them the press releases and news links thinking it might be a cure.

On the one hand, I get it. Threshold suspend technology is an important step on the path of artificial pancreas technology. Suspending insulin delivery in response to BG values will be a part of the artificial pancreas (as far as I can see now).

On the other hand, words are important. There is a new person at work and a few people call her just about everything other than her actual name. I think it annoys me more than it annoys her. Words and names have value and meaning and should be recognized as such.

Those were the “hands” that I walked into the Medtronic forum holding. In the discussions with the executives, they walked the fine line between defending their product name and acknowledging the negative implications it causes for the diabetes community. I can respect that.

(Twitter embeds were broken when I pulled the links last night. They are worth a read so I’m leaving them here for when Twitter and WordPress play nicely again. In the meantime, it is probably worth copying and pasting to visit the links)

I’m not usually described as an optimist, but I see an interesting advantage in this controversy that affects people with diabetes beyond those wearing Medtronic products – such as myself. Now that the new class has been established with the FDA, it will be easier for other companies to use the path that Medtronic has established to get their own technologies approved.

Side note: This is the second time that I have attended the Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum. Shortly before the last event, I had begun using a competitor’s pump (I had already been using a Dexcom for about a year). While I was asked with curiosity why I switched brands after eight years of happy pumping with Medtronic, no one harassed me about my decision or pressured me to switch back. During this trip, nothing was different. I would be foolish to miss work and waste precious vacation days to attend a glorified three-day marketing presentation. That was not what this was about, and the time of everyone in attendance is more valuable than that.

I hope that is recognized in the way I have written about the event. I know that when I need to be reminded of the work we are doing together I can also visit the excellent posts by Meri, Heather, Lee Ann, Kim 1, Jacquie, Kerri, Kim 2, Jess, and Cara.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!