Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Vapers Can Draw Inspiration from this Type 1 Diabetes Story: We Are Not Waiting


Vapers, I hope you are inspired by the following story.  It’s about how do-it-yourselfers in the Type 1 diabetes community have achieved advances in treatment that are entirely independent of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and of FDA regulation.  The manner in which these advancements were obtained mirrors how DIYs in the smoking community have promoted vaping devices that are substantially replacing deadly cigarettes.

People with Type 1 diabetes (PWDs for short) lack a functioning pancreas, making them reliant on a continuous external source of insulin.  There have been considerable advances in managing Type 1 over the past two decades, including better forms of insulin, small wearable pumps that provide the essential hormone 24/7, and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) – tiny sensors that provide blood sugar levels day and night.  Remarkable as these advances are, PWDs must still be on guard 24/7 – even in the middle of the night – to maintain a normal blood sugar range.  With Type 1, blood sugar levels can soar or plunge in an instant.  Too much time at the high end can damage blood vessels, kidneys and other organs, while low blood sugars can trigger brain shutdown, coma and even death.

Of late, PWDs were convinced that insulin pumps and CGMs could be integrated into an “artificial pancreas”, but device manufacturers and the FDA were not moving fast enough.  In response, DIYs went into action (as described in a recent article in Healthline), and in 2013 the hashtag #WeAreNotWaiting became “the rally cry of folks in the diabetes community who are taking matters into their own hands by developing platforms, apps, and cloud-based solutions, and reverse-engineering existing products,” with a focus on developing an artificial pancreas.

Artificial pancreas systems (insulin pump, CGM and controller) have been available for several years.  One app, called Loop, is used by 10-15,000 people worldwide (here).  In my own 18-month experience with it I have found it truly life-changing.    

A DIY artificial pancreas program called Tidepool has just been submitted for FDA review.  If approved, it would be the first DIY product to have passed FDA scrutiny.  PWDs are hopeful, but those already using artificial pancreas solutions will never give them up.

 The reason this story is important for vapers is that you have been using unapproved devices as substitutes for cigarettes in order to lead longer and healthier lives.  Like PWDs, you are not waiting for FDA-approved options to step away from the fire. 

E-cigarettes and vapor products are scheduled for daunting reviews by the FDA, but vapers, you have demonstrated that, in order to quit smoking and stay smoke-free, you are not waiting.  Take heart with this diabetes story.




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