The 2022 ADA Annual Conference: A T1D Patient Perspective

Amber Clour, who has type 1 diabetes, is the founder of Diabetes Daily Grind and host of the Real Life Diabetes podcast. She shares her experience at the American Diabetes Association’s 2022 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

I’m no new to diabetes events and conferences, but attending the 82nd American Diabetes Association (ADA) Gathering last week in New Orleans was a first for me. I go to all diabetes forums with an open mind and general curiosity for new devices, drugs, and services that will make living with diabetes a little easier.

I started blogging about living with type 1 diabetes in 2014 when I founded the Diabetes Daily and Diabetes in real life podcast. At first, I was reluctant to share my story and thought, “Who would care? But I was wrong. People living with diabetes liked my blogs and members of the medical community found it valuable because they got a glimpse of what “we” were thinking.

I would like to believe that this has helped guide the daily practice of health care providers and encouraged them to be compassionate when interacting with their patients.

Attending the ADA conference last week didn’t interest my usual audience much, as my readers and listeners tend to love hearing the stories of people living with diabetes. But the scientific research and discoveries exposed to ADA fascinated me. This year I attended on behalf of my latest project, The road to diabeteswith The Diabetes Way CEO David Kliff.

People with diabetes often hear about the latest drug or gadget through various marketing efforts, but hearing about it firsthand from those doing the research gives me hope for the future and , at the same time, reminds me how slow progress can be. For this very reason, I wanted to gather more detailed information about the process, how and why FDA approval can be so elusive and costly, and what drives researchers to continue their work.

I started my ADA journey with a few goals:

  1. Connect in person with former podcast guests and industry leaders.

  2. Learn more from the patient’s perspective about Omnipod 5, Dexcom G7, Afrezza, Abbott Freestyle Libre 3, and the various new drugs for type 2 diabetes.

  3. Ask patient-oriented questions regarding the availability and accessibility of diabetes medications and technology.

  4. Browse the posters section to learn more about current and upcoming research. It may seem like a minor part of the show, but it turned out that the attach had as much energy and activity as the exhibit hall on time.

I knew the conference would be big, but I was unprepared for the true scale of the event and overall attendance, even though this year’s attendance was down due to COVID. Upon entering the conference center, I was inundated with diabetes publicity material, posters, videos, etc. The conference rooms were packed and I enjoyed hearing passionate discussions in different languages.

The scale of the convention center and the over 6,600 attendees were overwhelming. Once I acquired my press credentials, I went down to the showroom. I caught the adverts promoted on social media, TV commercials and magazines, but seeing the room light up with booths built with all the lights, bells and whistles was awe inspiring.

The #1 stop in the showroom was with Dexcom, which I have used for years. I had an enriching discussion with the international team and learned a lot about Dexcom ONE. As a diabetes advocate, I find it interesting to hear about new devices and drugs, and when they will be available globally.

The latest generation of CGM Dexcom.

I was excited to get my hands on the upcoming Dexcom G7, which features a more user-friendly and less invasive insertion device than the G6, among many other new features.

Stop #2 was the MannKind booth to talk about Afrezza, an ultra-rapid acting mealtime insulin that is breathed in through the mouth and into the lungs, using an inhaler. I’ve used Afrezza for years and wanted to see what was on the horizon.

I spoke with the CEO of MannKind Michael Castagne and Executive Director of Marketing Ben Harris and tried out a demonstration of the BluHale® PRO, a small electro-acoustic device that snaps onto the dry powder inhaler and tracks the amount of insulin taken. It also shows your ability to quickly and accurately dose inhaled insulin. The data provided reminded me of a CGM app and an insulin pen cap. We had a good laugh because according to the device, apparently I need to up my insulin inhaling game.

At the MannKind booth with CEO Michael Castagna.

Stop #3 was with my friends at Bigfoot Biomedical. As someone who is still using MDI insulin therapy, I have followed the progress of this company closely and have had the privilege of interviewing Chief Medical Officer Dr James Malone in May 2021. Like the BluHale® PRO, the Bigfoot Unity™ Diabetes Management System incorporates data from the built-in Continuous Glucose Monitor (iCGM) for people with diabetes who use multiple daily injections (MDI) of insulin.

I made the most of my time in the exhibit hall, which felt like I was in a diabetes casino in Vegas – shiny things, lots of people from all over the world, bright lights and lots of marketing money spent while selling expensive diabetes management tools.

I presented a few questions to the representatives of each stand when time permitted.

  • How do you educate the medical community and is the information well received?

  • Other than mainstream TV ads, magazines and ads promoted on social media, how do you connect with the general public?

  • Is it affordable?

I asked these particular questions because unless the public is aware of the developments and the medical team takes the time to educate themselves, progress is dead in the water. I consider it my responsibility to research what is available and to share my plans for my diabetes management with my medical team.

My consensus from these three stands is that these companies are all interested in finding other ways to educate the public and the medical community. It’s neither easy nor cheap, and these companies work hard to bring their product to market. Affordability is a whole other issue and it’s not easy to solve.

The first thought I had as I left New Orleans was how many exhibit vendors are working together to provide better diabetes management tools. I also wondered how many ADA attendees actually have diabetes? I saw a pod or CGM on a few people, but the majority of participants were people doing diabetes research or working in industry and not living with the disease. I was grateful to see so many passionate people working diligently to make the future better than today for so many of us with diabetes.

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