Imagine one massive room, that you could wander around at your leisure. A room that had all of the latest and greatest diabetes tools and technologies on show. A place big enough that you were free to go and chat with any of the exhibitors that you wish to approach, without having sales reps from competing companies clamouring all over you. An opportunity for you to actually hold a blood glucose meter in your hand, have a play with an insulin pump, and ask all of the questions that have been sitting on your mind for the last few months.
There might even be a few coffee bars with complimentary chocolates on the counter to help get you through such a massive day. Ideally, there might even be a few freebies such as a new blood glucose meter, a mug or a sample of glucose tablets to take home. But above all, you have the opportunity to really learn and get excited about all of the options available on the market to support you in the self management of your diabetes.
This is actually a reality for healthcare professionals, researchers and people working in the diabetes industry. I’ve been lucky enough to experience what I can only describe as Christmas Day for a person with diabetes through my attendance at the Australasian Diabetes Congress over the past two years.
Several weeks ago over a coffee with one of the players in the diabetes space, I was asked what I would like to see more of from their brand. My answer was simple. More direct to consumer initiatives like the ones that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in as a diabetes blogger.
One good example of such initiative is Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre group set up sessions. To my knowledge, people with diabetes are invited to attend a group session with both a diabetes educator and an Abbott representative. They are provided with a complimentary FreeStyle Libre reader and sensor, and learn how to use the product during the session (depending on the place of setup, CDEs may charge for the session).
Both Diabetes Victoria and Diabetes NSW have held large diabetes expos in the past. While I don’t know a lot about the nature of these events, I believe that these are weekend events held in Convention Centres with a combination of exhibitors and information sessions.
Another personal highlight for me was the technology night designed by my fellow Young Adult Diabetes Committee members in Perth last year. The evening brought together representatives from Abbott FreeStyle, Roche, Cellnovo, AMSL and Medtronic Diabetes. There were also a selection of the Committee’s favourite diabetes accessories on sale.
Most importantly, the evening was designed by people with diabetes, for people with diabetes. There were Committee members speaking about their own personal experiences with such technology, as well as healthcare professionals explaining how the technology works. Seeing people in attendance who were only hearing about such technologies for the first time really highlighted the importance of holding events like these.
I get that there are regulations around the direct ‘marketing’ of pharmaceuticals to consumers. I have been told that the pharmaceutical players in this space are free to support any events that are initiated by third parties, but there are restrictions on events initiated in house. In fairness, I don’t want to see events where diabetes sales representatives are smothering innocent consumers who may be unable to see through the heavy spin.
However, the reality is that not enough consumers know about all of the available options on the market to manage their diabetes. Would it not be in the best interests of pharmaceuticals to be able to reach the actual users of their products in the same way that they can reach healthcare professionals?
There was a time before this blog existed where I didn’t really know a lot about diabetes and the options available. It took me five years until I moved on from the blood glucose meter that I was given on diagnosis, having learned about something more modern and better suited to my needs. There was a time where I never would have dreamed that I would be a candidate for an insulin pump, because I thought they were only for kids or people who were really struggling to manage their diabetes.
As I follow Tweets from the European EASD conference happening in Berlin this week, I am reminded of just how lightening fast these advancements in the treatment of diabetes are happening these days.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that newer or more ‘tech-ier’ will be better, but people with diabetes have a right to know and make an informed decision that best suits their needs. I try to share as much of what I learn here on my blog, not because I am in the pockets of big pharma, but because getting that information out there is a mission which I truly believe in.
I distinctly remember emphasising the importance of healthcare professionals relaying word of these new technologies back to people with diabetes throughout this year’s Congress. Equally, I know that there are many person centred healthcare professionals who will do just that.
People with diabetes have a right to know about all of the options out there.
We need more opportunities like these.