After five years spent developing the t:slim Insulin Pump, San Diego-based Tandem Diabetes Care Inc. has begun shipping the product to customers.
The company says t:slim has the footprint of a credit card, the look of a smartphone and is up to 25 percent slimmer than other 300-unit pumps.
Linda Parks, director of clinical education for Tandem Diabetes Care, said the t:slim’s basal and bolus deliveries function the same as those of a traditional insulin pump, but it’s built with more advanced features, comparing it with the difference between a smartphone and a flip phone. One of those features allows users to enter the insulin dose such as 120 units rather than pushing or holding a button up to get from zero to 120.
“With one you’re pressing a lot of buttons and the other is touchscreen technology with keypads so everything’s there,” said Parks. “The cool thing about the t:slim is you’re able to use it with touchscreen technology or keypad so you don’t have to scroll — the interface is much easier.”
Kim Blickenstaff, president and CEO of Tandem Diabetes Care, said the design of the t:slim overcomes problems that could lead to errors in medication delivery. For example, he said one of the leading hospital-based pumps is flawed with the on/off button located next to the start button. Nurses would sometimes get set up and press the on/off button then walk away, and the patient wouldn’t get their medication, he said.
“By testing it and optimizing it on real people it reduces errors,” said Blickenstaff, noting that nearly a year and a half was spent on t:slim’s user interface testing.
While insulin pumps haven’t fundamentally changed in the past decade, Blickenstaff said the t:slim introduces the big advantage of portability because it can be carried in a pocket.
“The trick was people wanted their pump made smaller than current pumps, and with technology, we were able to do that,” he said. “It looks like a consumer device.”
Fifty t:slims were sold during the first week it was brought to the U.S. market in early September, according to Blickenstaff, and an additional 200 were expected to be sold during the second week of September. Most insurance companies cover the cost of the $4,500 device, he said.
A Sales Force
With 22 sales staff and educators who work with them currently servicing customers, Tandem Diabetes Care is expected to expand its sales force substantially by the first quarter of 2013, eventually quadrupling the size of the group.
In the meantime, a concerted effort is being made to train the sales force and make a marketing push at trade shows such as those put on by the American Diabetes Association, Children With Diabetes and the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
Along with contacting physicians, endocrinologists and nurse educators, Tandem spokesman Steve Sabicer said they’re also reaching out through Twitter and Facebook and connecting with intensive blogger-oriented patients.
“We find word-of-mouth to be a very effective marketing tool,” said Sabicer. “We’ve seen an explosion of activity on social media networks around interaction with the company.”