Recently, Patients Pending, creators of the insulin injection tracking tool Timesulin, announced their next generation of injection tracking insulin pen caps, the Timesulin Dose Cap. By going beyond simply recording the time between injections to include injection dose, time of injection, and temperature information, Patients Pending is aspiring to create an intelligent insulin delivery system. This information, paired with blood glucose data through a mobile app, will allow the technology to provide personalized dosing and behavioral tips directly to patients. While this next generation technology is still in the final phases of R&D, we had a chance to sit down with John Sjölund, CEO & Founder of Patients Pending, to learn more about both Timesulin and the Timesulin Dose Cap.
Mike Batista, Medgadget: I understand you have a personal connection with this product. Tell us about the inspiration behind Patients Pending and Timesulin.
John Sjölund: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1985, just before my fourth birthday. While I don’t remember a life without diabetes, I do remember a fantastic childhood with a wonderful family that traveled a lot and was always exploring new adventures. Diabetes never defined who I was – I took care of it the best I could, but it was always a big factor in my life from needing to remember to bring all my supplies with me whenever I left the house to testing my blood sugar 4 to 10 times per day. Life can easily become a living algorithm of trying to figure out and predict what your diabetes will do based on what you ate and how active (or inactive) you are.
People without diabetes see a plate of food – somebody living with diabetes sees a math equation as they try to figure out how many carbohydrates are on the plate, how much fat, and how much insulin to take to avoid a dangerously high or low blood sugar. This happens 4-6 times per day. Diabetes is a never-ending, ever-present calculation.
When we started, our idea was to make life with diabetes a little bit easier, a little safer and to improve balance for millions of people like me. We thought our ideas could help. Despite having no experience in medical devices, we invented, designed, and currently manufacture a product that is simple to use, affordable and does not require users to change the way they treat their diabetes.
Medgadget: You previously developed Timesulin and now are working on the Timesulin Dose Cap. How does each product work?
John Sjölund: We designed the original Timesulin timer cap, and the recently announced Timesulin Dose Cap device, to be super simple. We do not want users to change their behavior or learn any new systems. A user only needs to replace the original cap on their insulin pen with a Timesulin cap and use their insulin pen as usual.
When the Timesulin cap is removed, this action automatically starts a timer that shows how much time has passed since the last dose. The upcoming Timesulin Dose Capture technology will additionally capture precisely how much insulin was administered, at what time the user administered the dose, and the temperature of the insulin at the time. When this information is coupled with blood glucose data and trends, you can start doing some very interesting stuff. We are super excited about what a highly accurate, low cost device will mean for the 466 million people living with diabetes globally.
Medgadget: For patients with diabetes, what are the challenges that your products help alleviate?
John Sjölund: The burden of living with diabetes, even for those with the best of control, is tremendous and oftentimes overwhelming. At the same time, innovation in diabetes has not matched the pace of what is happening outside of healthcare. Data is in silos, poor user experience leads to frustration and error, and the total avoidance of risk means that innovation doesn’t flourish. Patients like me are driving innovation to create the products that we need ourselves and as evident by an incredible do-it-yourself (DIY) community within diabetes.
According to the largest study of its kind by Novo Nordisk, 93% of people living with diabetes report having memory issues in the previous month regarding if/when they took their injection. Do you sometimes wonder if you locked your front door, if you turned off the coffee machine, or if you locked your car? Imagine going through this type of routine 4-6 times per day and that the consequences of getting it wrong – meaning a double dose of insulin – can be fatal. Our product, Timesulin, shows you how long it’s been since you last took your insulin to help ensure you don’t make a mistake. The Timesulin Dose Cap goes even further to quantify the amount, time, and temperature of each insulin injection.
Medgadget: For those unfamiliar with diabetes, what is the risk for a patient who forgets when they took their insulin shot and either takes it again too soon or too late?
John Sjölund: It is scary to consider, but the reality is that incorrect insulin frequency can be fatal. The biggest concern is severe low blood sugar which often can require hospitalization. Over the long term, a history of double and/or missed injections can cause many diabetes-related complications like cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye, foot and skin complications. The list goes one.
By giving patients certainty on when they took their last insulin dose, our original technology, Timesulin, takes away a decision patients make multiple times per day. If we can reduce severe hypo/hyperglycemic (high or low blood sugar) situations, then there are short and long term financial benefits to both individuals and society.
Our next generation technology, Timesulin Dose Capture, will go many steps further. By making health data available in real time, we can start using it for automated decision making. It is powerful and, I believe, will mark a fundamental shift in diabetes management.
Medgadget: With multiple brands of insulin pens on the market, which insulin pens does Timesulin work with? Does Timesulin vary across brands?
John Sjölund: Timesulin currently works with leading insulin pen brands including Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Lilly. These pens cover the biggest segment of insulin pens used regularly. We have a simple guide on our website for people to see if Timesulin is compatible with their pen.
The mechanics of every Timesulin cap is the same, but the fit of each pen is slightly different, which means that each mechanical unit needs a pen-specific cap!
Medgadget: Since Timesulin currently works with disposable insulin pens, do you have any plans to develop similar technology for cartridge or refillable insulin pens?
John Sjölund: Our focus thus far has only been on the disposable insulin pen segment as this is by far the largest for insulin pen users. For our future devices, we envision they will work with both prefilled/disposable and reusable/durable insulin pens.
Medgadget: What has been the reaction to Timesulin from patients and doctors? Any success stories or anecdotes you can share?
John Sjölund: I get emails everyday from people thanking us for making their lives a little easier. It’s a simple tool, and affordable, but the effect it has on users is profound. We have hundreds of thousands of users across the globe and the feedback is what keeps us motivated! You can find some testimonials from users on our website.
Medgadget: Patients Pending is currently based in both Sweden and the United Kingdom. Is Timesulin currently available in the US? Is Timesulin FDA approved?
John Sjölund: Timesulin is a Class 1 Medical Device and is registered with the FDA approval as a medical device already. We have a distribution partner in the US and Timesulin is available from all the leading pharmacies like Rite-Aid and Kmart at a cost of roughly $30.
We are always on the hunt for new partners so that we can get our product into the hands of all those that can benefit from knowing with certainty when they took their last insulin injection.
Medgadget: Are there other challenges that diabetic patients still face today where innovative technologies, like Timesulin, can plan a role?
John Sjölund: There are many many challenges that people with diabetes, those caring for people with diabetes, health care providers, and even those paying for services face. The reality is that the majority of patients are not doing well and are not able to manage their diabetes within the current guidelines – it can be a lonely and very difficult condition to deal with. Entrepreneurs are leading the charge to allow data to help us make better decisions and create devices that use modern design practices. We hope to play a small role in this word of reducing the cognitive burden that diabetes places on those it affects.
Medgadget: How do you envision the future of diabetes and the role will Timesulin play?
John Sjölund: In an era where some cars can today drive themselves to our doctors appointments, it is really disappointing that we are not yet able to use data and the inexpensive processing power we have in our pockets in the form of mobile phones to help automate many aspects of diabetes.
Do-it-yourself patient initiatives like the NightScout, OpenAPS and even BigFoot (the predecessor to BigFoot Biomedical) have proven that connected devices, when working together to automated diabetes management, can be life changing.
Insulin is a very complicated drug to use – and we hope to lead the charge in making the delivery of insulin more intelligent through our Bluetooth connected cap with dose capture. We have been working for years on evaluating different technologies that allow for a highly accurate, low cost and easy-to-use technology. When insulin data is paired with blood glucose data, you can provide individualized coaching, recommendations and dashboards to patients. Our next generation product, a replacement cap that works with any of the major brands of insulin, will be the missing piece of hardware in being able to deliver Intelligent Insulin Delivery for users of insulin pens – finally!
Medgadget: What is next for Patients Pending? Are there other opportunities you’re excited to tackle next?
John Sjölund: We are on a mission to bring our new data driven device to market. Learning from the challenges of launching a commercial product on our own – we are now speaking with partners that want to work with us. Our next product will form part of a service connected to a blood glucose monitor and/or a continuous glucose monitor along with some fantastic software. Our focus in on getting this right so that we can help the millions of people around the world live a better, safer, more balanced life with diabetes.
Link: Timesulin homepage…