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Smart Insulin Pens: What are they & how do they work?

*Disclaimer: All content and information in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only.

This article was written by Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD. Last updated on 11/27/23.

 

Smart Insulin Pens: What are they & how do they work Banner Image

 

Smart insulin pens are a medical device designed to help people with diabetes manage their insulin therapy more effectively. Compared to traditional insulin pens or vials, smart insulin pens are a reusable Bluetooth device that connect to a mobile app to provide valuable insights for individuals with diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about key features of smart insulin pens.

Limitations of traditional insulin pens or vials

Traditional insulin pens or insulin vials have several limitations that can impact insulin therapy management of people with diabetes. This include:

  • Manual insulin dose calculations: individuals with diabetes need to calculate their insulin doses themselves, which can be confusing especially for those with varying insulin sensitivity or complex dosing regimens.
  • Lack of data: traditional insulin pens do not have the capability to track insulin doses or provide information about injection times or amounts, making it challenging for individuals with diabetes to identify patterns or make data-driven decisions to optimize their diabetes management.
  • Accurate dosing: most traditional insulin pens only offer whole unit increments for dosing which does not provide the same level of dosing accuracy as smart pens.
  • Limited reminders and alerts: traditional insulin pens do not offer reminders or alerts, potentially leading to missed doses or extended exposure to extreme temperatures.

What are the advantages of a smart insulin pen?

Smart insulin pens offer solutions to various challenges linked with conventional insulin pens through the following features:

  • Automatically recording insulin doses in real time to reduce the burden of logging insulin doses on individuals with diabetes
  • Detection of potential insulin stacking by continuously monitoring active insulin or insulin on board
  • Incorporating a personalized bolus calculator that allows users to customize insulin-to-carb ratios, insulin sensitivity factors, target blood glucose levels and duration of insulin action according to their specific therapy settings
  • Half-unit increment dosing for more precise insulin dosing
  • Provide alerts to help prevent missed doses
  • Deeper insights into diabetes data through integration with CGM devices

 

A smart pen has many features of an insulin pump, but still requires manual injections.

 

image of inpen

Features of smart insulin pens

  • Displays current glucose level and active insulin
  • Calculates personalized insulin doses to reduce guesswork from insulin dose calculations
  • Automatically logs doses given and tracks active insulin
  • Syncs with CGM and blood glucose meters to track glucose history
  • Sends reminders for missed dose, long-acting insulin and blood glucose checks
  • Alerts for insulin expiration and temperature exposure
  • Offers half-unit dosing increments
  • Personalized data reports

Who is a good candidate for smart insulin pens?

A smart insulin pen can be a suitable option for individuals who prefer a manual insulin delivery device, but still desire additional features to assist with their diabetes management. A good candidate for a smart insulin pen includes people with diabetes who:

  • Need help calculating insulin doses for meal times or corrections
  • Desire more precise insulin dosing options than what are available with other insulin pens or vial and syringe methods
  • Frequently miss doses or struggle to remember the timing of when their last dose was given
  • Do not want to use an insulin pump, but desire additional data insights into their insulin doses
  • Insulin pump users who want pump-like features when taking a pump break

 

image of smart insulin pen

What are the smart insulin pens available?

Medtronic InPen is currently the only smart insulin pen available in the United States. However, there are more emerging developments in this market.

Recently, Big Food Unity System introduced a smart insulin pen cap that integrates with Freestyle Libre CGM. The smart cap is connected to the user’s disposable insulin pen, allowing for real-time dose suggestions based on glucose readings from Freestyle Libre.

Another option available includes the Novo Nordisk NovoPen Echo. This insulin pen has a memory function that allows users to view the time since their last injection. 

Eli Lilly also shared news to begin rollout for a Tempo Personalized Diabetes Management Platform, but there are no dates for its nationwide release yet.

What type of insulin does InPen use?

InPen is compatible with cartridges of rapid-acting insulins including Novolog, Humalog and Fiasp.

How much does a smart insulin pen cost?

The list price for InPen starts at $855. Medtronic highlights that the device is typically covered by most commercial insulin plans. Eligible users may pay as little as $35. Each InPen device is reusable for one year.

Summary

Smart insulin pens can help people with diabetes improve their blood sugar management by providing valuable insights and features that aren’t available with conventional insulin pens or vials and syringes. If you’re looking at other options for insulin management or need a back-up option to your insulin pump, talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about whether a smart insulin pen could be a good option for you.

 

About Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD

Amanda Ciprich, a registered dietitian with a specialization in type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed with T1D herself at the age of 18. With her expertise and personal experience, she has authored two books, including "The Caregiver's Guide to Diabetes: Practical Advice for Caring for Your Loved One." As the founder of T1D Nutritionist, a virtual insurance-based private practice, Amanda provides counseling and guidance to individuals with T1D and their families, supporting them in effectively managing diabetes.

 

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