A Helpful Reminder from These Colorful Insulin Pen Needles

Last month we addressed the under-discussed issue of lipohypertrophy. Lori Berard, chair of the Canadian Forum for Injection Techniques, helped ASweetLife understand the nature and scope of the issue, which is almost entirely caused by poor injection site rotation.

You may already be aware that if you inject insulin into the same spots repeatedly, you’ll inevitably develop lumps of unhealthy fat under the skin. This is called lipohypertrophy, and it can present serious challenges for blood sugar management. Insulin that’s injected into those unfortunate lumps is absorbed very unpredictably, which results in more frequent hypos, rollercoastering blood sugars, increased insulin needs, and rising A1C. Berard told us that the problem is far more wide-spread than even most diabetes professionals are aware of, and it may well explain much of the frustrating unpredictability that often defines diabetes management.

In one sense, it’s a simple problem. It shouldn’t be complicated or difficult to teach proper injection rotation, which can almost entirely prevent lipohypertrophy. But actually getting the message out is easier said than done: it would take a tremendous effort and a great deal of time to propagate new teaching techniques across such a wide network of professionals. And patients with diabetes are already overburdened with a million other things to think about.

A Montreal start-up named MontMéd thinks it has a solution. Their new product, SiteSmart, aims to give insulin pen users a simple reminder to rotate their injection sites. How does it work? Color-coded insulin pen needles.

The insulin pen needles we use today are generic and featureless. SiteSmart instead offers a box of insulin pen needles in four distinctive colors. The idea is that when you happen to pull a green needle from the box, you know to inject in one area; when you pull a blue needle, you know to inject in another.

When I spoke to Amir Farzam, the MontMéd CEO, he repeatedly emphasized SiteSmart’s ease of use: “It doesn’t need any tracking, any logging, no need to remember where you injected last time. It’s as simple as that.”

To help the beginner determine which body part each color corresponds to, SiteSmart comes with a body map, a system of colored stickers, and an optional smartphone app. But Farzam expects that patients will internalize the new associations quickly, and will soon be properly rotating their injections on autopilot. The colored needle alone is a reminder to change injection sites, a daily reinforcement of the principle of site rotation.