Companion Medical InPen

2/22/18
WRITTEN BY: Greg Brown
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Consider having the benefits of digital insulin monitoring without the handcuffing of needing to wear a constant device. Enter Companion Medical and its InPen.

The FDA recently approved the smart insulin pen, which is designed to be paired with an Apple iOS app. A first in the U.S., the InPen, which can be re-used for up to one year and works with Humalog or Novalog insulin cartridges, uses Bluetooth to deliver digitized data and, perhaps most important, user convenience.

At this time, the InPen is the only FDA-approved insulin delivery system combining an injector pen, bolus advisor, Bluetooth technology, and a smartphone app. In essence it attempts to create a low-hassle, contained insulin therapy system. Users just need to occasionally swap insulin out. Companion Medical says cartridges can generally be installed within one minute and will need to be replaced either weekly or monthly.

The pen tracks insulin doses (including priming) and automatically sends data to a user’s mobile device as long as the app is running in the background. InPen’s two key benefits are cost and flexibility.

“Our team has worked diligently to develop a solution for people living with diabetes who want the benefits of an insulin pump without the cost or burden of being tethered to a device,” said Companion Medical CEO Sean Saint.

Insulin pumps, while novel, life-changing, and slowly growing in market presence, are, at best, a bit cumbersome and can cost thousands of dollars. The InPen can be slipped in one’s pocket and used when needed. The data tracking capabilities of the pen make dosing easy and accurate, in theory.

As for cost, Saint said that most major insurers (companies on the level UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna) will cover the InPen. Out-of-pocket co-pays are estimated to run from $0 to $50, with a small portion of co-pays stretching past $120 and up to $334. The InPen has a discounted cash price of $549 for those without insurance coverage.

Saint said in a company press release that health provider interest has been strong. “Doctors see the combination of two technologies (pumps and pens),” said Saint. “This is very intuitive to them, and they get it. Even doctors who are very pump-centric, what they see here is the ability to bring pump-like features to those who they have previously failed to convince.”

Cost and portability, however, really only begin to capture the potential value to users. The pen calculates and recommends optimal doses, tracks dose history and timing for up to a year, monitors insulin temperature, allows insulin data to be shared with health providers and insurers, reminds users when a dose is due, and comes in three separate colors, a real potential benefit when keeping different insulins separate is a need.

It’s important to note the FDA’s approval is, at this time, for limited use. InPen is only available with a prescription, and the company says it’s only intended for use by those who are 12 or older.

Right now the InPen app is compatible with iOS 10 and later. An Android app is under development, with an expected release date of mid-2018. The app allows glucose data integration from BGMs and CGM via Apple Health. Companion Medical plans to integrate other established data management systems, such as Glooko and Tidepool, with the app in the future. The hope here is to link insulin-adjustment software with the app to make dosing even more efficient and effective. Think in terms of how artificial pancreas algorithms automatically adjust insulin doses. The ultimate vision for InPen looks something like an automatically adjusting dose calculator.

Until then, its current iteration may fill a long T1D market demand.


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Greg Brown

Greg Brown is a freelance writer living in western Maine. He has written for Consumer Reports Magazine, Consumer Reports Online, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. He can be found online at: www.yellowbarncreative.com.