Last year, I was invited to the Australian launch events of two insulin pumps. Within a month of each other, the YpsoPump and Cellnovo pump were introduced into the Australian market: a market with a huge appetite for something new. Although Cellnovo had launched softly the previous year, the Australian distributor seemed to be increasing their business and had the pump’s inventor, Julian Shapley, in the country to give a presentation and answer questions.

At both events, we were wined and dined, and the latest bells and whistles of these two new offerings were confidently and excitedly shared with us. I listened carefully, keen to hear not only about the technical specifications, but also about the customer service that would be offered to those choosing these devices and their plans for the future. I’ve learnt over the years that reading glossy brochures only gives one part of the overall picture of using a particular device, so I was looking forward to asking those questions that give a much better idea of what is going on.

At some point during each of the events’ proceedings, I asked the same question. I wanted to know how these companies were safeguarding from these devices being launched on the market with great fanfare only to see them disappear after people had started using the very products in front of us.

Of course, I was assured and reassured that the companies were here for the long-haul and that they were future-proofing themselves by insuring they were preparing for the technology we all expect. Closed loop systems were coming; integration with CGM was an almost done deal; their algorithms would be better, smarter than anything we had seen before. And yes, they absolutely understood the concern I was expressing at the thought that just as quickly as their device had won our hearts and minds, it would disappear from market altogether. Of course, of course, of course that was not going to happen and I shouldn’t for a minute even think that was how things would turn out.

I listened. And I believed them.

Last week we heard that Cellnovo was ceasing production of its pump and all current users would be transitioned onto different devices. This played out over a couple of days. The first announcement was that Cellnovo was going into administration, but I wasn’t ready to shut the coffin lid just yet – we’d seen that happen before. But then, a mere day or two later, the announcement came that all manufacturing and commercial activities would cease, and that no new PWD would be started on Cellnovo products. Coffin. Nailed Shut.

Let’s put aside any opinions of the Cellnovo pump, because that’s not what this is about. I know there were some people who really weren’t fans of the device. My limited interaction with it left me interested, but not keen to slap one on my upper arm and call it my new pancreas. But I know some people who love it and have found it to be the right insulin delivery device for them. My diabetes; my rules and all that.

I also know a number of people who started using Cellnovo as their first pump. In Australia it was the closest thing we had to a ‘patch pump’ and they liked the idea of not having to deal with centimetres of tubing. When I wrote that Cellnovo would be launched here, I had a number of people reach out in great excitement. With Omnipod repeatedly stalling getting through our funding model, this was as good as they were going to get to the device they thought would be best for them.

And so, Cellnovo has won the heart and minds of some people. Just as mine were won over by the Cozmo and Animas pumps. And when they are taken away from us, our hearts break a little.

We learn to tolerate and accept – and sometimes even love – these devices. I wear mine as close to my heart as I possibly can, hearing it gently whir as it delivers insulin, sometimes in perfect time with my heartbeat. We do what we can to make them fit with us seamlessly. We know they will never really be part of our body; but we do what we can to work with and around them.

There is nothing and there is no one who I have ever been as literally attached to as the devices that are connected to my body 24/7 for the last eighteen years. I have loved them and hated them in equal measure as each day I try to accommodate them as best I can while at the same time appreciating and acknowledging what they do for me. And I hear this from others who have been wearing insulin pumps (and other diabetes devices) – some for years, some far more recently.

So, with this in mind – and this is something many of us have written and spoken about – and what played our last week, the almost cavalier attitude to my question at the event last June has left a sour taste.

Let me be clear here: this isn’t directed to the team at Medical Specialties Australasia (the Australian distributors of Cellnovo). They have been nothing but professional, friendly and approachable, and from the first time I met with Aaron Crook, it was clear that they were keen to make a success out of things and were pleased to be offering more choice to PWD in Australia. It’s possible they only found out about all of this a short time before the announcement was made. And really, it isn’t necessarily about Cellnovo. They are just the latest in the casualties of medical devices, and now join the ranks of Cozmo, Animas and Asante pump and the Navigator CGM. I am sure that they never wanted this to happen.

And yet, it has.

Of course, the closure of a business leaves a mess, and many casualties in its wake, but perhaps those that will feel this the most personally is PWD – the people who have come to rely on these devices to survive. We are already doing all we can to live with a condition that demands so much. We struggle to find what works for and alongside us and when we do, we want to keep it forever. Our own pancreas already decided to stop working; having to contend with the one we chose as its replacement disappearing as well seems more than just a little cruel and unfair.

Disclosures

I have none that are relevant to this post. My travel and accommodation for both launch events were covered by MSA and Ypsomed and were declared at the time. 

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