The 2016 Insulin Nation Naughty-or-Nice List

We play Santa with some of this year’s top newsmakers in Type 1 diabetes care.



Commentary

It’s time once again for Insulin Nation’s “Naughty and Nice” list, where we play Judge Santa with some of the Type 1 diabetes newsmakers in 2016. The coal-and-candy-cane winners are:

Naughty

1. The Dollar Store
In September, this retail chain for cheap stuff was fined a lot of dollars (275K of them) after it had fired a cashier for treating a bout of hypoglycemia with orange juice while on the clock. Did we mention that she didn’t leave her post as she brought her blood sugar levels up? Last time we do all our Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve there.


2. Novo Nordisk
We know that pharmaceutical companies have a fiduciary responsibility to make money and all, but Novo Nordisk still gets a bit of coal for killing off its oral insulin project after puttering along with it for several years. The reason? Because insurors were balking at their jacked-up prices for injectable insulin. Cue the small violins.

Read more: The 2015 Type 1 Naughty and Nice List

3. TV writers
No longer content to kill off people with Type 1 diabetes in the present, now TV writers are traveling back in time or to dystopian futures to do it. This past year, the show Outlander had its heroine diagnose a woman with Type 1 in a 17th century hospital, only to pronounce the woman a lost cause. In doing so, she earned the respect of a nun (Alright! So worth it!).

Meanwhile, The Walking Dead writers doubled down on their mistake of making warmed-up, two-year-old insulin a central plot point for a character with Type 1 (who dies – surprise!). This year they make the bad guy describe how hard it was to get her “meds.” Try impossible, dude, since the writers failed to show a working insulin factory at the bad guy’s compound. I mean, what do they want us to believe next, that the dead can return to life and eat people?

Read more: Readers Suggest a Diabetes Naughty-or-Nice List

4. Sanofi
If we could put this company on the naughty list twice, we would. That’s because they started out the new year by walking away from their contract to promote the inhalable insulin Afrezza after doing…um…something to promote it. Then they continued to allow their lawyers to be sue-happy when it comes to generic insulin, this time against Merck & Co. They got a lucrative settlement from a similar suit against Lilly in 2015, so why not, right?

5. Medtronic and UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare, which insures a good chunk of the country, buried a notice saying that Medtronic pumps would be their preferred pumps in those brochures you always throw out. “Preferred” sounds so nice, right? Tell that to Tandem users covered by UHC who worried they were going to lose coverage for their pumps and supplies. Oh, and Medtronic doesn’t get a pass trying to look like it’s minding its own business on this one.

Nice

1. Medtronic
Yes, it’s a grey area of a world, and Medtronic gets on both lists. The company gets some major nice points for rolling out the 670G, the first pump device system to be given the distinction of “artificial pancreas”, at least in air quotes. And they get extra points for not calling the system an artificial pancreas themselves, and instead letting the diabetes community spend a couple of weeks debating whether the 670G earns the name.


2. Beyond Type 1
This relatively new site seems to be morphing from a forum for selfie T1D empowerment to a vehicle for activism. In 2016, it used its star power to spread awareness of DKA in a lot of mainstream news and entertainment outlets. It will be curious to see if this nonprofit is trying to position itself as sort of a West Coast JDRF in the coming year. If so, JDRF may need to step up its direct action game.

3. Elijah Cummings and Bernie Sanders.
Shortly before the election, these two lawmakers sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation into possible collusion between drug companies on insulin prices. Haven’t heard much about this after the election, though. I guess people are busy right now in Washington with something else?

4. Theresa May
This UK lawmaker probably won’t make the nice list of many people in 2016 as she halfheartedly leads the Brexit process, but we have to give the new prime minister props for becoming the first world leader with Type 1 diabetes. Even if she hadn’t won the post of prime minister, she would have made the list for rolling her eyes during a public debate when a colleague failed to distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

5. Diabetes Research Institute
Anytime you can announce a man with Type 1 has discontinued insulin therapy because of your treatment, you make it to the nice list. The Diabetes Research Institute, or “DRI” to its friends, announced in June that a second person with Type 1 had come off insulin therapy after having a BioHub implant. This device protects transplanted beta cells from immune system attack, and they get to work restoring blood sugar levels to non-Type 1 levels. Gotta say, though, this saving-people-from-insulin-therapy-one-person-at-a-time thing is going to take, like, forever.

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.