NICE recommends Cambridge-developed ‘artificial pancreas’ for use on NHS for management of type 1 diabetes

The artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetes – which was developed in Cambridge and supported in trials by the NIHR Cambridge BRC and NIHR Cambridge CRF – could soon be approved for use in the NHS.

The technology is now being recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a new way of controlling diabetes and if approved, could be a life-changing tool to manage the disease.

Currently, people with type 1 diabetes rely on multiple, daily finger-prick blood tests and insulin injections to manage their blood sugar, because their pancreas no longer produces insulin.

This new technology combines an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor and an algorithm to calculate and deliver the right amount of insulin needed. NICE has recommended that the device is offered to patients whose diabetes is difficult to control with other technologies and who are at increased risk of long-term complications – around 105,000 people in England and Wales.

Trialling a new technology

The NIHR Cambridge BRC and CRF have supported the artificial pancreas research from the earliest phases of research more than ten years ago. The device was trialled at the CRF in multiple stages with hundreds of patients, including pregnant women and children.

Research nurses collected blood samples and glucose readings and even conducted overnight studies to understand how effective the device would be to patients whilst they slept. Studies found the artificial pancreas was beneficial in managing people’s diabetes.

Professor Roman Hovorka, who led the team that developed the artificial pancreas, said: “NICE’s recommendations are very welcome and it comes after years of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) at Cambridge.

“These provided the necessary clinical and economic evidence that showed the device has clear health benefits and potential cost savings.

“This technology can literally change lives. If blood glucose levels are too low or too high it can be very damaging and even life-threatening.

“Our trials showed that using the device improved patients’ quality of life and reduced the risk of long-term health complications.”

The closed-loop algorithm developed in Cambridge is now available through CamDiab in 15 countries worldwide, including Australia, France, Italy and Poland.

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