Companion Medical plans to start shipping the InPen, its FDA-approved smart insulin pen, before the year, and I’m excited about this brand new device category. In an age where everything seems to be “smart” or “wireless”, it’s fair to ask the question: why would I want a smart insulin pen? Read on.
What is a Smart Insulin Pen?
The InPen by Companion Medical is a reusable insulin pen that uses removable insulin cartridges to deliver up to 30 units in 1/2 unit increments, much like the Luxura HD or Novo Echo. By adding Bluetooth technology and a smartphone app, the InPen helps you calculate and then record your next insulin dose. The InPen impressively also distinguishes between priming and actual insulin doses by filtering out low doses given just before a second dose. It still records the priming dose, but does not regard those units as injected by the user.
Reason #1: Most insulin users still use pens
We like to get excited about advanced Insulin Pumps powering futuristic Artificial Pancreas systems, but the reality is that over 60% of people with Type 1 diabetes still use pens. The reasons are diverse, ranging from convenience (“i don’t want to have anything attached to me”) to the high costs of insulin pumps.
While insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors have been evolving at break-neck pace, insulin pens have remain largely unchanged.
Reason #2: A seamless automated insulin bolus calculator
Unless you are using an insulin pump, mealtime or correction bolus calculations can be incredibly frustrating. More often than not, people end up eyeballing or guesstimating their dose.
While insulin bolus calculator apps exist, most have plenty of flaws and are unsafe to use. For example, some do not have any data validation, so if a user erroneously inputs an extra digit (1322 instead of 132), the suggested dose might be 10 times higher, and potentially lethal. In addition, most app bolus calculators do not factor in “insulin-on-board”, or insulin from previous injections that are still in effect.
By using a wireless meter glucose meter and the InPen, the InPen app can automatically import the glucose reading and calculate your recommended dose. Since it knows your insulin dose history, it would safely avoid suggesting too much insulin if you still have “insulin-on-board.”
From there, after you take the recommended dose, the app would automatically record the dose in your logbook, and visually displays your history on the app.
Reason #3: Automated logging of insulin doses/timing benefits users and clinicians
While it might sound bizarre to people who don’t take insulin, it’s surprisingly easy to forget whether or not you took your insulin. Much like forgetting where you parked, the fact that you do it so often can make it hard to remember. Using the InPen, that ambiguity is gone. At any time, you can load up the app and see your previous insulin doses and even see how much insulin is still on board.
Also, automatic recording of insulin dosing and timing is a game changer for visits to the doctor. As an endocrinologist, I’m happy when my patients are able to produce a glucose logbook, but only a slim percentage record their insulin doses. (I don’t blame them; it’s hard to keep those records!)
With the InPen, every insulin dose and date/time is recorded automatically. So when your doctor is trying to analyze your glucose data to make adjustments to your insulin dosing, they can see how your sugars responded to prior doses of insulin and better identify the cause of certain patterns in your blood sugar.
The Future is (Just About) Here
After receiving FDA approval earlier this year, the InPen will finally start shipping in the next few weeks, before the end of 2017. At initial launch, the re-usable pen may be covered as a pharmacy benefit and, depending on your plan, may be available according to your insurance co-pay. The cash price is $550 after a $250 coupon discount. Companion Medical is optimistic that insurance plan coverage will expand in the future.
While cost will likely be a barrier for many in the beginning, the InPen finally brings significant upgrades to the insulin pen, which over 60% of people with Type 1 diabetes still rely on. With the automated dose recording and seamless app with insulin bolus calculator, I welcome every product that reduces burden for patients and improves the quality of diabetes data.
Can the pen be used with Dexcom’s CGM?
My daughter is very active on instragram for type 1 Diabetes and has a large following. Could she get one to try and then help spread the word?
It does not hook up with the G6 or any CGM now, but may in the future. To try it I would suggest contacting Sean who has type 1 and founded the company. Their number is: 844-843-7903 (9am – 5pm EST) or email: email@example.com.
Instead of going back on the pump I’m going to try the inpen but don’t always have my phone on me. What watch will connect to it.
Hi June, this answer came straight from a Companion Medical representative:
“Right now an Apple Watch will display our notifications but only if iPhone is in range of watch. IOB and other data is not displayed on Apple Watch.”
Do you have to take training classes for the pen?
They are FDA cleared for no training required. A quick start guide is included with the device and when the Pp is installed for the first time there is a quick tutorial. Full instructions for use and training videos are available through the app.
Is the InPen covered by Medicare?
InPen is covered under Medicare Part D. Coverage is a function of insurance plan design, so there is no hard and fast coverage rule.
I switched from Novolog to Fiasp about a year ago. Since you cannot yet buy Fiasp in cartridges in the US, I have to extract the cartridges from the prefilled pen to insert into my Novo Echo pen. Will I be able to do this as well with the InPen? In other words, can you use Fiasp with the InPen?
I reached out to our contact at Companion Medical (who makes the InPen) and he said while not in the labeling, the same method could theoretically be used with InPen.
I presume that you would need the Novolog-specific version of InPen for this to work
Companion Medical has a pen for Lilly insulin and one for Novo insulin. The Novo pen fits both Novolog and Fiasp cartridges.
Does InPen have to be primed for every injection?
It does not. However, there is software in the pen (it’s proprietary technology) that determines if a dose is primed and doesn’t include it as a true insulin dose.
Does anyone know if it will be available for those under 12 anytime soon? This would be so helpful for a parent of younger children.
I asked Companion Medical and they said they haven’t gone to the FDA about that yet, but healthcare providers can write for anything off label. Off label simply means that despite a product’s FDA cleared indications (the “label”) the physician has the final say. In this case, if the doctor thinks InPen is appropriate, then he/she can legally and ethically prescribe the product to the patient. Hope that helps!
What is the average cost of inpin with insurance coverage? I know you have to replace it every year so is it a one time a year purchase?
Our contact at Companion Medical said patients pay no more than $50 if they are covered and $99 if they are not covered for a once per year purchase. Hope that helps!
Is there a way to sync up to date readings from my Dexcom G6 to the BG in the InPen app? Right now, the readings I see are 3 hours old from the Apple Health app.
Does it sync up with an iPhone 5SE?
Probably best to reach out to them directly at: 844-843-7903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a current user of InPen. I wouldn’t recommend this product to anyone. The design of both the pen and its app are fundamentally flawed. I was able to identify 18 different problems with their pen and app, from the inability to add notes to the logbook to many, many instances of falsely logged insulin doses (one day it logged 397u of insulin I never took). Needless to say, this can badly screw up the dose calculator. The dose is also often off by plus/minus a half unit. The pen also tends to lose connection with the phone, requiring the phone to be restarted to restore connection. They recently updated the app, making a lot of changes that made it worse, and, as nearly as I can tell, doing nothing to fix any of the problems. Also, pairing the app with the pen used to take a 6u “pairing dose”, if I recall correctly. With the new app it takes a 20.5u “pairing dose”. I guess they are under the impression that insulin is free.
I would love to use Inpen but with a MedicarePDP the cost is $500. It is just not affordable. I so wish Medicare recipients could benefit from the same cost breaks afford to commercial insurance patients
Inpen is a wonderful product and would help me enormously in controlling hypoglycemia. Inpen staff is exceptional.
I have been on the pump for more than 20 years. I love what it does, but hate always having to attach it to my body. I love that I don’t have to take shots all day and it gives me a basal rate. Does the impending? What benefit of the impending is bigger than much less shots everyday. Somebody explain why this impending is so much more special than a regular pen with a couple. I don’t get it.
Is they any way of getting one of these in the UK ?
I’m not 100% sure. Here’s contact info for Medtronic in the UK – they own the InPen:
Medtronic UK Ltd
Croxley Green Business Park,
Phone: +44(0) 1923 205167 Option 1
Fax: +44 (0) 1923 241004
Customer Services & Ordering
Phone: +44(0) 1923 205167 Option 2
Fax: +44(0) 1923 229270
Where to get the $250 coupon?
Medtronic now markets the InPen, so try reaching out to them to see what promotions they offer: