Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Supah Star!

Even Mary Katherine Gallagher would have to agree—the Lantus SoloStar is kick-butt.

When Lantus came out with their first insulin pen, I jumped all over it. The OptiClik promised freedom. I travel a lot and the thought of just grabbing a pen and a few needle caps seemed easier than packing a glass vial of insulin and multiple syringes. And if any of you read my Tagged! entry, you’ve seen that I actually used this glass vial and syringe in the middle of a Tokyo subway station. How much easier a pen would have been than filling a syringe!

As soon as I knew it was available, I made an appointment at my endo’s office to see the diabetes educator and get my pen. It looked so simple!
So fantastic! So liberating! Then I tried it.

It sucked. I know there are a million adjectives out there that I could use to describe the OptiClik and normally I would find one of them, but really, in all seriousness, “sucked” is the most appropriate. The OptiClik is a clunker—too heavy to hold up, no indication that the insulin is actually delivering and how much more it has to go before the whole dosage is administered and just a general all-around pain. And I still had the glass vials; the pen was a permanent mechanism and the insulin vials had to be changed out. My syringes and original vials seemed miles ahead technology-wise. Honestly—did anyone try this thing out before they put it on the market? I think I used it twice before I hissed at it and threw it in a drawer.

Then there were rumors of a new Lantus pen. It was in Europe, it was being looked at by the FDA. It was here, but in limited distribution. It was HERE. The Lantus SoloStar.
I went to a diabetes health fair and got a demonstration. Beautiful. I got to hold the pen and do a fake shot—lightweight and easy. I got a prescription when I went to see my doctor and, after my pharmacy ordered it and I waited a few days, I had it in my hot little hands.

The pen is disposable. No changing out of insulin vials; you just use the insulin in the pen and when there’s no more, you throw the pen out. A prescription contains five pens, with 300 units in each pen. Since I had just gotten my regular insulin (in the glass vials) filled, the fabulous folks at HMO decided I’d gotten my allotment for the time being and I had to pay cash for the pens. I’m planning a trip this fall to France (fingers-crossed) and I really wanted to test it out to see if it would be as good as I thought it would be. I wanted time with the pen to make sure I liked it before carting it through customs.

I’ve used it two nights in a row now and I’ve got to say—all the hype is true. The first night I didn’t even feel it. I was paranoid, though, so I kept checking my sugar the next day to make sure I actually had insulin in my system; I did. The second night it hurt a little, but I was using the same injection site and generally speaking, I can only use a site pain-free once before I bruise and have to shoot into the bruise.

The pen is light; I can hold it, push in the button and pinch together skin without feeling like I’m doing a balancing act. And the dial-a-unit feature on the end has improved greatly. With the OptiClik, you dialed a number, pushed the button and it immediately went to zero; you just had to keep holding the pen in place until you thought all the insulin had made its way into your body. With the SoloStar, the numbers click down as the insulin is injected. 35 click, 34 click, 33 click—all the way to zero. You only have to hold the pen in place for about 10 seconds to make sure all the insulin is delivered, not much different than a syringe. And I’m not 100% positive, but I think the insulin vial that’s already inserted into the pen when you get it is plastic—or if it’s not, it’s got to be some really good safety glass, which makes travelling with it make even more sense.

As for the cost, of course anything newfangled and fabulous is more expensive. I did a unit-by-unit comparison between the pen and the original vial and it is just a tiny bit costlier. However, I think the ease factor makes it totally worth the money. I don’t plan on using the pen every day (unless the price goes down), but for travel, I’ll definitely keep a prescription filled. How much easier to bring two pens than two glass vials that I’m always paranoid will drop on a cement floor and break (I’ve dropped many in my own home and they don’t bounce; they shatter).

So, all-in-all, thumbs up—or in the case of Mary Katherine, two arms up.

As always, more to come…

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