Anyone with diabetes knows that insulin delivery can be expensive, annoying, and time consuming. While insulin pens and syringes have been the norm for many years, a new device called OneTouch Via could change the game.

The device is a thin, water-resistant patch that patients wear beneath their clothes. At mealtime, they simply press a button to get a dose of insulin. According to a market acceptance evaluation of the product, 50 percent of the patients who used OneTouch Via reported they remembered and took more of the insulin doses they were supposed to. The patch’s developer, Calibra Medical Inc., which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, presented the research.

Ninety-eight percent of the patients involved in the study said the patch allowed them to dose discreetly in public, and 88 percent said they worried less about forgetting a dose. The clinicians involved with the study also preferred OneTouch Via over traditional insulin delivery methods.

“Oh, there are lots of complaints about insulin injection in general,” said Brooke Baker, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator based at the St. John Diabetes Center in Tulsa, Okla. She explained to Medical Daily that some patients have an aversion to or fear of needles, making insulin injection an unpleasant task.

Pens can be a problem too, though, since people with visual impairment or dexterity trouble can have a hard time accurately dosing insulin with the device. Beyond mechanical issues, social pressure can affect dosing as well.

Researchers hope that their new product helps eliminate barriers many people living with diabetes face surrounding mealtime insulin. Pixabay Public Domain

“People with diabetes can often feel embarrassment or discomfort when they need to inject insulin at mealtimes or when snacking,” said Dr. Brian Levy, chief medical officer at Lifescan Inc., in a statement. LifeScan, another Johnson & Johnson company, makes blood glucose monitoring equipment. “In a social situation, they may choose to miss a dose so they don’t have to take themselves out of the moment," Levy said.

In the baseline assessment of patients in the study, the majority of participants reported that they preferred being alone while injecting away from home; whereas 61 percent reported not carrying their insulin while travelling at all. Levy said missing an insulin dose can lead to serious health complications, and Baker noted many unhealthy conditions that can occur when an insulin-dependent person deals with high blood sugar over the long-term — heart disease, amputations, eye diseases, and kidney failure are all on the table.

During the study, in which 44 patients used the OneTouch Via patch for 60 days, participants reported increased satisfaction rates the longer they used the patch. Baker warns, however, that depending on such a device is no excuse to forgo learning about traditional insulin dosing methods. OneTouch Via produces rapid-acting insulin at mealtimes, but does not work for long-acting insulin. So the patch is a supplement rather than a replacement for other methods.

Patients should have and understand a backup plan, she said, noting that using the patch to make diabetes “easy” would be a mistake.

For certain patients and situations, though, the patch could be just what a person needs to easily get their daily doses of insulin.

“OneTouch Via will help people stay on top of their treatment and also allow them to stay in those vital moments in life — a dinner party, a grandchild’s birthday, a work event,” explained John Wilson, vice president of insulin delivery at Animas Corporation, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson. “It is our hope that once commercially available, it will eliminate the barriers many people living with diabetes face surrounding mealtime insulin and ultimately improve health outcomes.”

Source: Zraick V, Dreon D, Naik R, Shearer D, Crawford S, Bradford J, et al. Patient User Experience Evaluation of Bolus Patch Insulin Delivery System. American Diabetes Association Conference. 2016.