On Wednesday, June 19th, I had the opportunity to attend the very first diabetes blogger summit to be hosted by Valeritas at their Manufacturing, Research and Development facility in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Valeritas is the manufacturer of the V-GO , an insulin delivery device intended for use by individuals with type two diabetes who use insulin as part of there daily management routine.
As a company focused on the type 2 diabetes community, Valeritas wanted to get real patient insights and feedback on what they can do to help develop resources that would both help strengthen the online type 2 community and provide resources for the offline community. With that in mind, the company invited fellow type 2 bloggers Kate Cornell, Phyllisa Deroze, Bea Dominguez, Bennet Dunlap, and myself to meet with them at their facility for a day of discussions. Kelly Close, President of Close Concerns and Editor-in-Chief of diaTribe, joined the group to lead the discussions.
The day began at 8:00 a.m., with transport from the hotel to the Valeritas facility for a light breakfast, which was followed by the official welcome and introductions.
Tara Charvat, VP of Marketing and Marketing Operations gave an overview of the company, its history, missions, etc…
Breffni Fox, Brand Director, introduced the group to the V-Go Insulin Delivery Device and gave an overview of what it was.
Scott Huie, VP of Corporate and Product Compliance, continued the V-Go introduction by detailing the how it is made and how it works. A tour of the manufacturing plant followed, giving us a chance to see the process in action. Sorry folks, no cameras were allowed on the plant floor.
Following the tour, and a short break, the group had the chance to meet Angela Gaskins-Younger, an Adult Nurse Practitioner and CDE, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1993. She shared her diagnosis story with us and talked about her experiences in using the V-Go as part of her personal treatment regimen, and also talked about helping patients with the device in her practice. As we reached the end of that session, it was time to break for lunch.
Once we reached the restaurant and had placed our orders, it was decided that we would go ahead and begin the roundtable discussion on strengthening the type 2 diabetes online community. Most of the morning sessions ran overtime due to the great conversations being had, and we wanted to be sure we could fit all of the afternoon topics into the time we had left.
We started off the discussions talking about some of our personal experiences since diagnosis. I shared the story of how my treatment regimen had progressed from using and struggling with oral medications to my telling my doctor that I wanted to switch to insulin. That opened up a the discussion to thoughts on empowering PWD’s to take charge of their diabetes management.
After returning to Valeritas following lunch, we dove into heavier topics. We were asked to share thoughts on combating the stigma surrounding type 2 diabetes, and discuss what we thought could be done to combat the issue both online and offline. We talked about the lack of understanding and education and the difficulties many people face with accessing the most basic of management supplies.
We wrapped up the roundtable by talking about the roles that large advocacy groups, think ADA, can play in addressing important issues. Similar ideas were shared about the pharmaceutical industry in general, and about Valeritas specifically.
During the morning introductions, I stated that my goal in attending the summit was to see us walk away with at least one actionable item to build upon after we parted ways. In the end, we left with two. First, we’ve all committed to continuing the discussion via conference calls on at least a quarterly basis, and second, Valeritas will be seeking guidance from their legal and regulatory team on how they can assist with the production of resource materials, both online and in print. It will be interesting to see what comes of both. As always, I’m going forward with guarded optimism.
Overall, I feel that this first Type 2 Diabetes Summit at Valeritas was successful and worthwhile.
I’m thankful to have been included in the event along side amazing diabetes advocates like Bea, Bennet, Kate, Kelly, and Phyllisa. It was an awesome experience being in the room and witnessing their passion for diabetes advocacy first hand. It’s one thing to read the words put on a page by a screen name, but quite another to actually be in the same room with the real, live individual, and see the expressions on their face and hear the emotion in their voice.
We are real people, living with a real disease, doing the best we can to not only get ourselves through each day, but also to educate others and advocate for a cure.
My thanks to each of you for taking the time to attend the summit.
Finally, my thanks to Valeritas for taking this first step in engaging the type 2 community online and for committing to working to develop resources to support the community.
I look forward to seeing where this road leads.
Disclaimer: Valeritas paid for transportation, lodging, and meals associated with my attending the Type 2 Diabetes Summit. I was not asked to write about the summit, nor was I coached on what to say and not to say. As always, my thoughts are just that..my thoughts!