By Gary Scheiner
I’ve always felt that it takes three things — I call them the “3 Ts” — to manage diabetes effectively: Tools, Techniques, and ‘Tude (attitude… but I needed something that starts with “T”). If any of the three is lacking, diabetes management tends to fall apart. Insulin pumps fall into the “tools” category. Pumps are viewed as one of the more powerful and effective instruments at our disposal, but it still takes the skills and desire to use a pump optimally in order to achieve better glucose control and quality of life.
Since most people stay tethered to their insulin pump longer than the average marriages lasts, it pays to shop around. There are now SIX different insulin pumps on the U.S. market, and there are differences between them – distinctions that have both clinical and convenience implications. That’s why we have a detailed set of pump comparisons at our website.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to use one of the “new kids on the block” — the Snap insulin pump from Asante Solutions, based in California’s silicon valley. I believe the name comes from one of the key attributes of the pump – how easy it is to set up and maintain. Unlike other pumps, Snap is modular. The “brain” of the pump (called the controller) is the only part that is not disposable. The controller has a full-color display and buttons that correspond with the on-screen icons. The controller also stores historical information for on-screen review and downloading.
Asante Snap Controller
Since a brain isn’t of much use without a body, Snap utilizes disposable “pump bodies” (really… that’s what they’re called!). Each pump body holds a 300-unit prefilled Humalog insulin cartridge; plans are underway to offer pump bodies fitted to hold Novolog cartridges as well. The pump bodies also contain a battery, drive mechanism and memory chip for storing the pump settings. The infusion set tubing is retrofitted to attach directly to the pump body. As the tube is attached, insulin is driven through the tubing, so minimal priming is required. Snapping the pump body and controller together creates the Snap pump. The pump body and tubing may be used for the life of the 300-unit insulin cartridge, but infusion sites still need to be changed every 2-3 days.
The Snap Pump Body “snaps” into the Pump Controller
What’s beneficial about the modular design? Plenty. Because the controller is the only durable part, the upfront cost is approximately 80% less than other pumps. Use of prefilled insulin cartridges and the automatic tubing prime makes change-outs super fast and bubble-free. Having a memory chip in the disposable pump body means that you’ll never have to search for your pump settings. If the controller ever has to be replaced, just snap an old pump body into the new controller, and voila. The settings are transferred instantly.
Snap shares many basic features with other pumps – temp basals, dual/combination boluses, and so on. It also has a number of unique elements not found in other pumps: A built-in flashlight (great for finding lost keys!), an ultra-lightweight design, very rapid bolus entry, and options for deducting IOB (insulin-on-board) from meal doses or correction doses.
Of course, no pump is perfect. Although the upfront price is relatively low, replacing both pump bodies and infusion sets on a regular basis creates a higher overall long-term cost. Downloading data from the pump is complex and not yet doable from home. Humalog is not approved on every drug formulary, and many people have simply developed a preference for Novolog or Apidra. There is no direct link (yet) with a glucose meter or CGM, although Asante is planning to integrate with the next generation Dexcom G5 system. Infusion set options are somewhat limited, and the pump lacks a vibrate mechanism.
Overall, I have been more than pleased with the Snap. To me, easy/quick bolusing and cartridge/tubing change-outs are essential qualities in a pump, and Snap really nailed both of those features. The company’s support is outstanding, and the management is very open to suggestions. Unfortunately, this is something we’ve seen fade over time as small pump companies become big ones or are acquired by large corporations… hopefully it will remain a strong point at Asante.
One other note: Asante is the only company to offer a 30-day no-cost trial. They even supply the disposables and a coupon for free insulin cartridges. If you’ve been hesitant to commit to pump therapy or are due for an upgrade on your current pump, it’s a great way to sample Snap without any obligation.