Monday, October 18, 2010

Insulin - a Great Forecast of Future Healthcare

A week or two ago the NY Times had an amazing article on the history of insulin.  Some time ago I wrote about advancements in medical technology that allow me to pursue some of the crazy athletic things I do; but I had kind of taken the discovery of insulin for granted.  I forgot that at some point isolating the compound that allows the body to use glucose has allowed all type 1s to live past their first few years with the disease.  The article discusses how viscous a killer diabetes was in the early 1900s and basically states insulin was one of the few "once in a generation," drugs that truly changed the world.

The description of children with type 1 in the article is tremendously heart wrenching.  The mental image of a 10 year old who is nothing but skin and bones really made me realize how incredible it is that I control my disease with a pump and about 90 years after the discovery of the drug am able to be a muscular 31 year old.  None of that would have been possible without a team of canadian doctors - so my heartfelt thanks to that team!

What was really shocking about the article was how strongly it parallels what is occurring today.  Much like the treatment for the biggest health risks of the 2000s (obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc), the management of type 1 required doctors to loosen their grip on the patient and allow them to treat themselves at home.  Doctors were terrified that letting their patients inject themselves with insulin would lead to all sorts of down stream ramifications (thankfully I can get an infusion set into my butt cheek as well as a guy who went to Harvard med!).  Today, although Doctors are all for eradicating the greatest health risks we face the medical business model doesn't let them be treated as effectively as they otherwise could be.

So anyway, overall a really interesting article that is a great read.  The article was written in concert with the launch of a new exhibit about the drug at the New York Historical Society, 2 West 77th Street.  "Breakthrough:  The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of Insulin," runs through January 31; I'll be sure to get to it when I'm home for the holidays!

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