'Artificial pancreas' for diabetes sufferers gets approval for use in UK

'Artificial pancreas' for diabetes sufferers gets approval for use in UK

Doctors say a new device which mimics the pancreas could protect thousands of diabetes sufferers. The pump system, which has just been licensed for use in the UK, prevents severe hypoglycaemic attacks, which occur when blood sugar levels suddenly drop.

Experts said the device - which detects falling blood sugar levels, then stops the production of insulin - had been shown to prevent four in five such attacks. Doctors said the breakthrough was "an important step forward towards an artificial pancreas" and could protect patients who suffer repeated attacks, with little warning.

The falls in blood sugar can cause seizures, diabetic comas, and even death, and are particularly common during the night. Around 400,000 patients in the UK, including 29,000 children, suffer from Type 1 diabetes.

Manufacturers said the MiniMed 640g system would be especially helpful to the five to 10 per cent of sufferers who suffered frequent serious sugar lows, without clear warning. Such cases will be able to apply to the NHS for individual funding, but rationing bodies are not expected to consider routine funding until larger trials have been carried out.

The system made by Medtronic, will be available for private patients at at annual cost of around £7,000.

Dr Peter Hammond, Consultant Diabetologist, Harrogate District Hospital, said the advance was a "huge step forward".

He said: "This system steers people with type 1 diabetes away from the risk of severe hypoglycaemia without them even needing to know they were in danger."

Dr Pratik Choudhary, Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Diabetes at King's College London said the device, which first became available in Australia last year, was "another important step forward towards an artificial pancreas."

He said: "Our early experience is that patients love it for the peace of mind and safety it gives them overnight due to its ability to protect them against hypoglycaemia."

By Laura Donnelly,

The Telegraph, Monday 30 March 2015

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