'Smart' insulin pen to help manage diabetes made available to Scots on NHS

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A “smart” insulin injection pen that allows people with type one diabetes to more easily manage their condition has been made available on the NHS in Scotland for the first time.

The pens made by pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk record insulin-dosing data, including when and how much was administered.

This information can also be downloaded to a smartphone app, with the aim of reducing missed doses and the time taken for people with diabetes to record and manage their doses.

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Missed or delayed insulin doses can lead to dangerous and sometimes life-threatening complications.

Ollie Scott and his mother JillOllie Scott and his mother Jill
Ollie Scott and his mother Jill

Ollie Scott, 14, from Kelso, has been using a smart pen as part of a trial for several months.

He was diagnosed with type one diabetes when he was 11, and has also recently been diagnosed with epilepsy.

The smart pen has allowed him more freedom and reduced the impact of managing his condition, his mother Jill, 48, said.

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Ollie does his own insulin injections each time he eats, taking at least five every day.

Ollie, 14, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 11.Ollie, 14, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 11.
Ollie, 14, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 11.

At first this was a “novelty”, but it quickly became more of a chore, and his parents found themselves having to “nag” Ollie to make sure he had done the right number of injections.

This was made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, as school closures during early lockdowns disrupted Ollie’s routine.

When he returned to school he struggled to cope with managing his diabetes, and felt the time needed to check blood sugar levels and do injections meant he was missing out on activities with his friends.

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He also began to resent the injections, as they served as a constant reminder of his diabetes when he wanted to be a “normal” teenager.

Ollie ended up in hospital several times in winter 2020 because of problems managing his condition, and had to re-learn basic strategies once again. Ms Scott feared he may have developed diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication for people with diabetes if their body starts to run out of insulin.

But he began to improve and a few months later was offered a trial of the smart insulin pen. Ms Scott said she believed this had increased his ability to cope, and given both Ollie and his parents reassurance as they were able to check his insulin doses in case he forgets.

“It helps with the day-to-day managing of it, and gives a better understanding of his readings,” she said.

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“These pens make it easier because we can give him a bit of freedom back rather than constantly watching him doing all his injections. Instead I can just go up to his room and lift his pen and click on the end of it and I know when and how much insulin he’s given himself.”

She added: “Sometimes he forgets to take his insulin, sometimes he forgets he’s already taken his insulin. Being able to see the pen data gives the real story and gives us, his parents, peace of mind.

"Because Ollie’s healthcare professionals can see the data too, it helps them to support us all in managing his type one diabetes and they can adjust his medication accordingly.”

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