NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus: Connected Insulin Pens To Launch in Early 2019
By Jimmy McDermott and Brian Levine, and Adam Brown
Reusable Novo Nordisk smart insulin pens will launch first, followed by a Bluetooth attachment for disposable pens later in 2019. Partners include Roche/mySugr, Dexcom, and Glooko
Novo Nordisk recently announced its plans for a connected (“smart”) insulin pen, which will automatically record how much insulin was injected. For those on multiple daily injections, this means no logs, no forgetting doses or accidental insulin stacking, and access to the same computer-generated reports that help recognize patterns and optimize therapy as pump users. Novo Nordisk will launch the NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus in early 2019 in select countries, with an eventual launch in over 50 countries. The new connected pens are reusable, already approved in Europe (CE marked), and include a tiny screen that displays the last dose. They have piloted with great success in approximately 700 Swedish users with diabetes. A 2019 US launch may be possible, depend on how things go with the FDA.
Novo Nordisk’s NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus are reusable insulin pens equipped with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology – meaning that they must be scanned in close proximity to move the data off the pen and to another device. In the Swedish pilot, the pens were downloaded in the healthcare provider’s office using a kiosk (see picture below) – the goal was to improve the conversation between the person with diabetes and the healthcare provider, combining insulin data with glucose data.
The pens have an 800-injection dose memory and a remarkable five-year battery life – no recharging is necessary, an advantage of using NFC. The NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus both feature an electronic display that shows the amount of active insulin (insulin on board or “IOB”), size of the last dose, and time since last injection. It does not seem that users will initially have their own Novo Nordisk app to download the pens onto their own phone, but mySugr hopes to add this functionality to its app. Once the Bluetooth-enabled attachment comes out (see below), we imagine the focus will change from in-office download to users seeing the insulin data on their own phone.
As reusable pens, users will need to insert an insulin cartridge inside (prescribed separately). Echo Plus and NovoPen 6 will be compatible with both long-acting basal insulin (Levemir, Tresiba) and short-acting mealtime insulin (NovoLog, Fiasp).
The kid-friendly Echo Plus allows for half-unit dosing and a maximum 30-unit injection, whereas the NovoPen 6 has a minimum dose of one unit and a maximum dose of 60 units. Over time, these new connected pens will replace the NovoPen 5 and current NovoPen Echo.
Attachment for Disposable Pens
Beyond reusable pens, which are more popular outside the US, Novo Nordisk also announced that connectivity for disposable pens is coming “later in 2019.” This feature will capture insulin doses through a Bluetooth-enabled smart device that is attached to the widely used disposable FlexTouch pen. The attachment will transmit the insulin dose, time of dose, and the type of insulin being injected to a phone app (an important safety precaution to avoid mix-ups). Novo Nordisk has not shared any pictures, so we’re not sure if it will include a screen and what apps it will communicate with. Still, it is exciting that Novo Nordisk will have smart connectivity for both reusable and disposable insulin pens!
Along with the smart pen news, Novo Nordisk announced data partnerships with Roche, Dexcom, and Glooko. These partners (and likely more to come) will integrate insulin injection data into their apps/platforms, and in some cases, including dosing advice based on it.
Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) data will be combined with Novo Nordisk connected insulin pen data and “guidance information” to “give advice” that makes diabetes easier. The press release notes broadly that this will happen “in the coming years.” Dexcom recently acquired TypeZero, a startup that has insulin dosing advice algorithms for injection users. One day, it’s very possible Dexcom CGM users on injections will get personalized dosing advice based on their patterns.
Glooko: In January 2017, Novo Nordisk and Glooko announced a partnership to develop digital diabetes tools together. Since that time, they have launched the Cornerstones4Care app, and the two will continue to work together as Novo Nordisk brings its connected insulin pens to market. Earlier this year, Glooko received FDA clearance for a basal insulin dosing advice app, and we hope to see that come to market at some point.