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New Smart Pens Hoped to Change The Way We Treat Diabetes

Mar 2, 2019

Author: Steve Freed, R.PH., CDE

Reusable smart insulin pens to launch first, followed by Bluetooth attachment for disposable pens later in 2019.

Abbott and Novo Nordisk recently announced a non-exclusive partnership that will integrate insulin dose data from Novo Nordisk pre-filled and durable connected pens directly into the digital health tools compatible with the FreeStyle Libre system (FreeStyle LibreLink mobile app and LibreView cloud-based system). The partnership reflects both companies’ commitment “to make diabetes management easier by connecting key technologies such as continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and connected insulin pens.”


The new smart connected insulin pens by Novo Nordisk, the NovoPen 6 and the NovoPen Echo Plus, will also be able to connect to the Dexcom G6 CGM and the Diasend diabetes management platform (Glooko). A new compatibility feature will link Glooko’s Diasend platform with the Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor.  It will record how much insulin was injected and include onboard insulin.  This can mean 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. The new connected pens are reusable, already approved in Europe (CE marked), and include a tiny screen that displays the last dose.

The 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 pilot, the pens were downloaded in the healthcare provider’s office using a kiosk. 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, 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.

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). With the cost much lower than an insulin pump, it is anticipated that insurance companies will choose to pay for these new devices.

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.

Roche expects Novo Nordisk insulin pen data will sync to the mySugr app and Accu-Chek SmartPix software. For mySugr Bundle users, coaches will now get injection history alongside other diabetes data.

Practice Pearls

  • The new smart pens can almost duplicate what an insulin pump can do at a much lower cost.
  • The cost of the smart pens will make it much easier to get insurance companies to pay for them.
  • We will begin to see a number of new studies comparing the ability of smart pens to lower A1c results as good as insulin pumps.

Novo Nordisk News Release