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YOUR HEALTH: An alternative to pills and needles for diabetics

CARY, North Carolina – Doctors say it's critical for patients to control blood sugar levels to avoid serious complications like kidney, heart or eye damage.

Easier said than done.

But now researchers have found a way to turn a patch into a daily caregiver for those controlling their insulin.

"The bad food is like a pizza," said diabetic Al Brown, a diabetic whose had troubles controlling his blood sugar levels.

"You eat one or two slices and zoom! Up it goes."

For the past 15 years, Al has struggled with Type-2 Diabetes.   He's been on insulin, starting with pills then moving to shots to control his blood sugar.

"You do different things during the day. Maybe you're a little forgetful. There are times when you do forget."

One in ten Americans has diabetes.  One and a half million people are diagnosed every year. 

"If they're on pills, compliance is easier, but if they're on shots before each meal it's difficult to comply," says endoctrinologist Dr. Sun-Eun Yoo with the Cary Endocrine and Diabetes Center.

Dr. Yoo says an insulin treatment that is easier to administer has become a priority for some patients.   No need to carry a cooler with insulin or needles.

For the past year, Al Brown has been using the V-Go insulin patch.  The V-Go is a small waterproof patch placed on the body.  A patient clicks to deliver a unit of insulin into the skin.

Al Brown is a believer.

"You push it.  That's where the needle penetrates your stomach, if you will.  Pretty painless, really."

Al refills the insulin and changes the patch daily.   He says it's one way to assist him with insulin control and not gamble with his health.

V-GO PATCH:  Even though a patch for insulin was introduced ten years ago, it is not widely available and
doctors may not be prescribing it as often as they should be.   There's basel insulin and then there's meal insulin, and it just combines both functions.  It delivers small amounts throughout the day so it covers baser insulin need.   And then you click the button each time you eat, which covers meal insulin, so you don't have to carry your insulin cooler and needles.

The V-Go is covered by Medicare Part D and doctors say a growing number of insurance companies are now covering the insulin patch.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or  Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.