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Large study suggests insulin pump therapy is more effective than insulin injections

Results from the longest and largest study to date show that insulin pump therapy was more effective in controlling blood glucose levels compared to insulin injections.

A new study has found that insulin pumps were more effective at controlling blood glucose levels than insulin injections, and were associated with a lower rate of diabetes-related complications in young people with type 1 diabetes.

Researchers at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Australia, performed a 7-year follow-up of 345 young people receiving insulin pump therapy and compared them to controls that were using insulin injections. The incidence of severe hypoglycaemia was reduced by over 50% in pump users, whereas the number of episodes increased in the control group. Hospital admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis were also reduced by over 50% amongst pump users compared to those on injections. 

Despite the marked improvement in glycaemic control, a total of 38 participants stopped pump therapy during the study period. Of these, six individuals ceased treatment in the first year, with seven stopping in the second year, 10 in the third year, and the remainder after 3 years of insulin pump therapy. The study found that children stopped pump therapy because of the extra attention associated with managing their pump, or because they had concerns about how their pump looked. The researchers also found that some children took a temporary “pump holiday” and returned to pump therapy after a short break.

Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Care Improvement for Diabetes UK, said: “This provides further evidence that using insulin pumps can help children with Type 1 diabetes achieve good blood glucose control and, with the right education and specialist nursing support, in the long term this can help reduce risk of serious complications such as amputation, blindness and kidney failure.

“This is why it is a real concern that the UK is lagging behind comparable countries in terms of insulin pump usage. We want the NHS to do more to ensure there are enough healthcare professionals who are qualified to support children and adults with Type 1 diabetes to use a pump effectively, so that everyone who wants to use one is able to do so. This could make a real difference to ensuring that everyone with diabetes has the best possible chance of a long and healthy life

The article was published in Diabetologia, the Journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

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