Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

Yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune featured an article in the business section about Medtronic Inc., which happens to be based in Minnesota. Of course, Medtronic is best known within the diabetes community as the parent of Minimed, the first and largest manufacturer of insulin pumps, as Medtronic acquired the Northridge, California-based insulin pump manufacturer in 2001 for $3.7 billion. However, Medtronic's diabetes division is one of the company's smallest -- accounting for about 8% (or $722 million) of the company's total annual revenue.

One of the more noteworthy pieces of the story was the fact that Medtronic recently commissioned a survey conducted by Harris Interactive which found that 80% of the American public cannot distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Even more troubling was the finding that nearly 70% (67% to be exact) of those who responded to the poll incorrectly believed there is already a cure for type 1 diabetes! Key findings were as follows:

  • 67% mistakenly believed there is a cure for type 1 diabetes

  • 51% knew there were two types of diabetes

  • 36% thought there was either a "type 3 or 4" diabetes

  • 25% believed that proper diet could "cure" the disease

  • 32% believed exercise could be a "cure"

  • Sources: Medtronic Inc., Harris Interactive survey of 2,436 American adults, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

    I suspect that few people with type 1 diabetes would doubt the accuracy of these findings. Unlike other medical conditions, diabetes is largely invisible to the naked eye (one reason why I support the Diabetes Made Visible effort). You could pass 100 people with diabetes during the course of the day and never be able to identify them. Also, because type 1 diabetes patients are usually normal weight, they do not display any overt symptoms.

    Medtronic said it would spend an undisclosed amount on educational initiatives to inform the public about the disease. This includes an informational website ( and local events throughout the country to spread the word about therapy options. The first event is scheduled for May in Miami.

    I believe the American Diabetes Association has done very little to educate the general population as to the distinctions between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and has actually worked to blur the distinctions (see my previous post on this subject here). However, the fact that the ADA president-elect Dr. John Buse has already received a degree of notoriety by his willingness to tell things like they are suggests that a changing of the guard at the ADA could bring about positive changes for the historically slow-moving organization!

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    Unknown said...

    I cannot begin to tell you how disturbing this seems, but I also cannot even begin to tell you about the numbers of people who ask me if I can just "control my diabetes by losing weight", or tell me that the cookie I'm about to eat (which I've already corrected for on my pump, thankyouverymuch) could KILL me.

    Thanks for sharing this news, Scott.

    BetterCell said...

    As I had previously stated some time ago, the ADA has always been a supporter of IRD(aka Type 2 Diabetes).
    One of the ways to correct this ignorance is to change the nomenclature between the two DIFFERENT Diseases.
    As far as the % of what the average person believes, ignorance is not always corrected by education .
    Intelligence and Awareness are precious Gifts bestowed upon very few people............unfortunately.

    Anonymous said...

    Hey what web page did you get the picture of the Lantus Solostar. Thanks

    Scott S said...

    FYI, I got the photo of the Solostar pen from a presentation made by the company to investors, although I cannot recall which presentation it came from.