Smart Insulin Pens for Diabetes

Smart insulin pens pair with technology to help make managing diabetes easier. They have many capabilities, including calculating insulin doses, sending alerts, managing insulin on board, setting helpful reminders, and creating detailed reports.

This article will discuss smart insulin pens and how they can help you and your clinicians work together to manage your diabetes better.

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What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells of the pancreas, and it has many functions. One of its main functions is blood sugar control. Insulin is often referred to as the gatekeeper—it allows blood glucose molecules to enter the cells to be used for energy.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the cells that produce insulin are destroyed. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily via a vehicle of their choice (pen, vial and syringe, or insulin pump).

Some people with type 2 diabetes also take insulin to help control their blood sugars. This often occurs in people who have had type 2 diabetes for a long time, those who are highly insulin resistant, or those who cannot control their blood sugars with lifestyle, oral medicines, or non-insulin injectables.

Two to three million people with diabetes use multiple daily injections of insulin. Multiple daily injection therapy includes three or more insulin injections per day.

People with diabetes typically take one injection for long-acting insulin (also referred to as basal or background insulin), as well as rapid insulin injections for meals and bringing blood sugars to goal (correction doses). This regimen is also referred to as basal-bolus insulin therapy.

Insulin History

Insulin was discovered in 1921, and 2022 will mark 100 years since insulin was first given to a human.

What Is a Smart Insulin Pen?

A smart insulin pen or connected pen is an insulin pen that pairs with a mobile app. It helps you manage your diabetes by improving insulin administration.

These “second-generation” pens pair with USB or Bluetooth technology to enable wireless transmission of data to your app. This makes titrating insulin or making changes to regimes easier.

Smart pens can streamline diabetes information across multiple platforms. For example, your smart pen, app, and continuous glucose monitor or blood sugar monitor can sync information to generate data that is in one place and is easier to understand.

Smart insulin pens can do several things:

  • Automatically respond to changes in user’s time zone
  • Automatically record and track insulin dosing and timing, with options to share data with clinicians
  • Recognize and differentiate between a priming dose and a bolus dose
  • Set insulin-to-carb ratios (ICRs), insulin sensitivity factors (ISFs), and glucose targets
  • Track insulin on board based on insulin duration of action
  • Calculate insulin dose based on current blood sugar level, carbohydrate amounts, meal size, active insulin, and settings prescribed by your doctor
  • Remind you when to inject and if you have missed a dose

Currently, there is only one smart pen available in the United States. Companion launched its InPen in 2017. The InPen is capable of delivering half-unit increments of insulin and can pair with certain continuous glucose monitors.

The InPen connects to an intuitive app on your phone (available for iPhones) via Bluetooth. It is a reusable pen compatible with fast-acting NovoLog, Humalog, and Fiasp insulin (cartridges not included) and can monitor insulin temperature. Each pen has a non-rechargeable battery that lasts for about a year.

Other companies (NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus) have smart pens available in Europe, but they are not yet available in the United States. Disposable insulin pens are also available that have sensors attached to the cap of the side of the pen and can transmit data to smartphones.

As diabetes technology continues to evolve, the likelihood of seeing more smart insulin pens is high. It is projected that by 2027, the North American smart insulin pen market will have a continuous annual growth rate of 26.7%.

Why Would Someone Choose to Use a Smart Insulin Pen?

People may choose to use smart pens to assist with calculations, to improve glycemic control, to make sharing diabetes information better, to prevent hypoglycemia, and as a backup to insulin pump therapy.

Helps With Calculations and Reduces Numeracy Errors

Research suggests that there is a math challenge when delivering insulin via standard insulin pens. People often make mistakes in calculating insulin doses and counting carbohydrates. This can affect blood sugar control. Smart insulin pens may take away these potential errors by doing the work for the person who has diabetes.

Research also suggests that when people with diabetes get assistance with insulin dose calculations, they see improvements in clinical outcomes (such as reduced A1C, a blood test used to monitor diabetes control), attitudes and behaviors, and satisfaction, and a decrease in glucose variability.

Smart insulin pens may reduce having to think as hard when giving yourself insulin.

Makes Data Sharing Easier

Sharing accurate data with your medical team makes it easier for them to make more precise insulin dose adjustments, improving diabetes outcomes. Sharing data with clinicians is essential for person-centered therapy that is inclusive and progressive.

Smart devices allow people with diabetes to share information with their medical team in an organized and efficient way.

Increases Insulin Adherence and Improves Blood Glucose Control

Taking multiple injections every day can be cumbersome for some people with diabetes. Research shows that insulin pens are more accurate and easier to use than a vial and syringes, and they often yield greater satisfaction and less injection site pain.

Diabetes self-management is also very involved, which can make it difficult to control. People who use insulin need to figure out how much insulin they need to take, when to take it, how to calculate their carbohydrates, and how much insulin is left in their system before taking their next injection. This can be hard to juggle.

Smart pens record insulin doses (when and if they were taken), calculate doses, and prevent insulin stacking, which can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In a 2020 study, researchers found that using a connected pen decreased missed boluses and improved bolus timing.

An Alternative to Pump Therapy

People who want to have a backup to their insulin pump or those people who don’t want to use pump therapy may also be interested in using smart pens. Some parents worry about their children being connected to a device. Other people living with diabetes for many years may want to take a break from their wearables.

How Do I Know If I Am Eligible?

The InPen is available to people of all ages with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes using bolus dosing with Humalog, NovoLog, and Fiasp. This pen is for bolus dosing only and is not used for long-acting (basal) insulin.

If you take long-acting insulin, you will need a separate pen for that. The smart pen can remind you to take long-acting insulin as well.

To determine eligibility, you can fill out a form online or call your insurance company.

Is It Covered by Insurance?

The InPen is covered by most commercial insurance companies. Uninsured people may be eligible for the company’s Access Program, which suggests that out-of-pocket costs will be about $35 a year.

Who Will Teach Me How to Use It?

Your endocrinologist or certified diabetes care and education specialist can train you on how to use your pen and how to share data.

Summary

Smart insulin pens may help people with diabetes to improve their glycemic control by providing assistance with insulin dosing, setting reminders about insulin doses, and providing an easier way to share data. They can serve as an alternative to vial and syringe and insulin pump therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Managing insulin can be complicated if you take several doses a day, and a smart pen may be part of the solution. If you are wondering if a smart pen is right for you or if you are eligible, discuss your options with your physician.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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