Insulin injections vs the pump: science declares a winner

Insulin injections

The traditional method for controlling Type 2 diabetes requires a lot of effort and discipline on a daily basis, as well as injecting insulin several times a day. The insulin pump, which delivers small amounts of insulin throughout the day, is expensive and requires training to use properly.

Which one has the better effect on blood sugar control?

Medical device company Medtronic commissioned an international study, in which 331 patients with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes were studied and compared. Half of them were selected at random and fitted with an insulin pump, while the rest continued to inject daily.

Six months later, the researchers published the results in The Lancet, and this is the verdict: According to scientists, the pump wins.

The study took place in 36 hospitals and care centers in Canada, Europe, Israel, South Africa, and the USA. After six months, the difference between both groups was significant: twice as many patients in the pump group had reached their blood sugar target range (55% of pump users vs. 28% injection users). Patients with pumps also needed 20% less insulin after 6 months than those who still injected. More positive data: diabetes patients in the pump group spent on average 3 fewer hours each day with high blood sugar.

Study author Yves Reznik, from the University of Caen Cote de Nacre Regional Hospital Center in France, said: "Our findings open up a valuable new treatment option for those individuals [who are] failing on current injection regimens", and he added that the pumps "may also provide improved convenience, reducing the burden of dose tracking and scheduling, and decreasing insulin injection omissions."

Dr. Gerald Bernstein directs the Diabetes Management Program at the Friedman Diabetes Institute, part of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Bernstein believes pumps are the best solution, but they still have their limitations (such as price and insurance-related hurdles) which have kept them from becoming mainstream. Still, Dr. Bernstein has faith in insulin pumps: "The future is bright -- pump and continuous monitor use is increasing, which should mean a reduction in price. All of the effort is to improve quality of life, productivity and reduce the risk for complications."