Wackiness at its best

Wackiness at its best

It never ceases to amaze Diabetic Investor how creative researchers can be in their never quest to develop a non-invasive glucose monitor. Yes we have seen some truly wacky ideas and just when we thought we had seen it all along comes yet another wacky idea. According to post on Electronic Components researchers at the University of California, San Diego are developing a system that allows patients to draw a glucose sensor on their skin.

The post states;

“The UC San Diego researchers developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They then filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and drew reusable glucose-measuring sensors on a pattern printed on a transparent, flexible material that included an electrode. They demonstrated that they could take glucose measurements off blood dropped on the material, wipe the pattern clean, draw a new pattern, and take a measurement again.

One pen has enough ink to draw 500 high-fidelity glucose sensor strips, according to the UC San Diego nanoengineers, who published their findings in the February 26 issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials. Better yet, they’ve demonstrated that they can draw sensors directly on the skin. The sensors are able to communicate with a potentiostat —a Bluetooth-enabled electronic device that controls electrodes—to gather data.”

Just as an FYI these are the same researchers who late last year were working on a tattoo that measures glucose levels.

Now at first glance these ideas might just seem a bit far-fetched but way back in the day many believed the world was flat and that man wasn’t meant to fly. Well thanks to Christopher Columbus and the Wright brothers we know now the world is round and men can fly. So maybe, just maybe it is possible to measure glucose with a tattoo or by drawing a sensor on one’s skin.

At this point Diabetic Investor isn’t quite sure whether to award the good people at UC San Diego a Wacky for their creative approach as their ideas are just two of many truly wacky approaches to non-invasive glucose monitoring. Over the years Diabetic Investor has written about numerous attempts to develop a non-invasive glucose monitor including but not limited to using saliva, tears and even a lollipop to measure glucose. And who could forget the device which got this ball rolling the infamous GlucoWatch.

Yes millions of dollars have been thrown down this sinkhole which has yielded nothing more than some great copy for Diabetic Investor. Perhaps even more amazing here is how many well-known companies have been duped into believing that pigs can fly. Johnson and Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), GE (NYSE:GE), Apple and Google are just a few that quickly come to mind. This quest for a non-invasive system is conclusive proof that it’s easier to steal money with a good PowerPoint presentation than it is with a gun, and a lot less risky too.

The fact is unlike other quests which have proven to be pipe dreams, there seems to be a never ending supply of investors willing to fund companies in the non-invasive space. Investors who ignore the past and happily hand over millions of dollars to these modern day snake oil salesmen. Now Diabetic Investor does not wish to put the good people at UC San Diego in this category as like many in academia it’s easier to live in the Ivory Tower than it is the real world.

So let’s do something we don’t normally do and give these people the benefit of the doubt, that they have the magic potion. Will the presence of a non-invasive glucose monitor change anything, will it result in better patient outcomes. Will measuring glucose non-invasively increase average testing frequency? Better yet will it help patients understand what these numbers mean or how to apply them when managing their diabetes?

Perhaps the best way to answer these question is take a walk down memory lane and examine the history of glucose monitoring. Those of us with fifty shades of gray hair can remember when glucose was measured with urine, which when you think about it was the only successful non-invasive glucose test, no matter how inaccurate the results. It wasn’t until the late 50’s early 60”s that blood glucose monitoring became possible. It took another 10 years or so for the first glucose meters to hit the market.

Over the years we have seen many improvements to meters, smaller sample sizes, faster test results, alternate site testing, more patient friendly lancets and lancing devices. Perhaps best of all there has been a dramatic improvement in the accuracy of results.

Yet with all these enhancements the one thing that hasn’t changed is average testing frequency. The fact is the average patient with diabetes tests their glucose levels less than twice a day. These statistics would be even worse if we excluded insulin pump patients who are the most frequent testers, averaging 7 tests per day.

The fact is Diabetic Investor has yet to find a study that concluded the reason patients don’t test as they should is due to the so-called pain associated with performing the test. In fact this so-called pain factor isn’t even among the top reasons patients give when asked why they don’t test as frequently as they should. Yes it’s among the reasons listed but never near the top of the list.

The harsh reality is for the majority of patients they don’t understand what these numbers mean or how to use them. Going back to insulin pumpers for a moment there is a reason they are the most frequent testers as insulin pump patients tend to receive a greater amount of diabetes education. Simply put they understand what these numbers mean and how to use them, the information is actionable. What studies have proven is there is a direct correlation between patient education and average testing frequency. The more educated a patient the more they test and it does not matter whether or not they are using insulin.

This is what gets lost in this never ending quest to develop a non-invasive system as it does not truly address the reason why patients don’t test. The people in the non-invasive world remind Diabetic Investor of the people who believe Afrezza will be successful just because it’s inhaled rather than injected. As we’re seeing this one fact alone does not address the many other issues facing Afrezza.

Diabetic Investor would not go so far to state with 100% certainty that should a true non-invasive system hit the market that it would be a commercial failure. However we will state that like Afrezza it is likely to disappoint when compared to inflated expectations.  The simple truth is a non-invasive system isn’t the answer no matter how cool it is.