November 7, 2011

One in Twenty / Twenty to One

Another diabetes dad sent an email asking about the JDRF New York Times Ad. Specifically if anyone knew the source of the 1:20 number it cites. I replied that I had traded emails with Aaron Kowalski and Jeffery Brewer at JDRF about the ad. 

Of the people I know in the diabetes community, and I know a lot of y'all there is nobody among us who is more passionate about with people with T1D living long, happy, well managed lives than Aaron and Jeffery, certainly including my craziness. 
Hypoglycemia can kill. Should we be less motivated to address hypos if the life time mortality risk is 1:40, 1:60 1:100? Shouldn't be just be motivated to make less of a risk, until it is not a factor at all?

The data for the ad is the based on various articles by Philip E. Cryer, MD. Significant in that is a piece in the American Journal of Medicine, Death during Intensive Glycemic Therapy of Diabetes: Mechanisms and Implications. 
That article in turn references:
The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Study Research Group. Long-term effect of diabetes and its treatment on cognitive function. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:1842–1852
Feltbower RG, Bodansky HJ, Patterson CC, et al. Acute complications and drug misuse are important causes of death for children and young adults with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:922–926 -
Skrivarhaug T, Bangstad H-J, Stene LC, Sandvik L, Hanssen KF, Joner G. Long-term mortality in a nationwide cohort of childhood-onset type 1 diabetic patients in Norway. Diabetologia. 2006;49:298–305  -
All of which I have printed and am in the process of re-re-reading and formulating thoughts on. Here is a readers digest of where I am so far.

The ad is not for the diabetes community. Period.

In the diabetes community we know that insulin has risk and that those risk involve the possibility of death from excessive insulin. I often hear those who live with diabetes and "Get It" wish that the general population understood type 1 better. The non-diabetes world doesn't have a frame of reference for diabetes management risks and this ad puts that into stark terms. 
Mark Twain has a famous comments on numbers, "Figures often beguile me," he wrote, "particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'" There is little reason to think Disraeli actually said that, but there is history, humor and Mark Twain. Think: The Daily Show. 
The effect of the ad statistic on some people with, and more significantly maybe some parents of T1D kids, is an increase in fear. I am not sure that is productive. (Please see ad is not for the diabetes community above.) I know a young woman who was so scared by dead in bed she disconnected her pump every night. Her parents were at a total loss as to why her night time BGs were so bad. It may not be a surprise folks who "Get It" that her A1C were through the roof. This was before blue candles and 1:20 ads in the paper. Fear is real. 

Hunter S Thompson wites of "The Fear" in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. "The Fear" in my mind is a character in the book. A book I found hysterical. I don't find diabetes fear so amusing. It can lead to actions, as was the case with the young woman who was disconnecting, that are dangerous. 
Many in the Diabetes On-line Community write about the phycological aspects of diabetes care.  Many say the mind game is as difficult as physiological management effort. In that context feeding the fear is a bad thing. Also turning those people (PWDs) to thinking about the statistics and motivating them into discussions about the numbers instead of discussions about doing stuff to move the ball forward on solutions is contrary to the goal of better living with T1D. 
All that said I have issues with simplifying the underlying papers to 1 in 20. Dr. Cryer writes about T2D as much or more than about T1D in Death during Intensive Glycemic Therapy of Diabetes: Mechanisms and Implications. He cites ACCORD, ADVANCE and VADT studies all of which appear to be T2D studies. In T2D there may be means of managing health other than insulin. In ACCORD the goal was A1C under 6% and the trial was stopped due to harm to T2D patients of that aggressive goal.

It also appears that the good Dr. Cryer's article was a response to another in the same journal issue that seemed to say that hypoglycemia was a comorbidity of other causes of death, seemingly downplaying hypos. So maybe he was saying, Hey you idiots hypos are dangerous in and of themselves... well he probably wouldn't say idiots, in fact I don't see that word used anyplace in his article. Maybe Mark Twain or Disraeli who used the "I" word. 
Cryer writes "Older estimates were that 2%-4% of patients with type 1 diabetes die from hypoglycemia. [16], [17] and [18] More recent estimates are that 6%,[19] 7%,[20] or 10%[21] of those with type 1 diabetes die from hypoglycemia.
Notes 19, 20 and 21 are the ones I shared above. 20 and 21 are studies form the UK and Norway, started in 1978 and 1973 respectively. Both are T1D studies. I have concerns that studies starting then will have significant data from pre DCCT, pre Lantus and pre Pump care regimes. Who is on NPH?
One can argue that pre DCCT was typically less aggressive care and that means less hypos so these may understate the risk. - Or -  One can argue that the lack of stable basal insulin, pumps modern meters ect. made hypos more frequent due more peaky nature of the tools available. I don't know. I suggest there is grounds to wonder if the fruits of the studies is all apples. Maybe there are some oranges involved. 
We hold these truths to be self evident: the risk of fatal hypos is a lot higher if one takes insulin than if one does not. Even so that is not the only source of stress in a T1D household. 
1:20 is not an annual rate but a life time projection. Looking at the reciprocal, when they die, 19 of 20 people with T1D will not die of hypos related issues. That is a lot better than the 100% that died of DKA in pre insulin days. 

Diabetes care is about balance.

That and I hope that in my kids lives they each have 20 non-diabeteic people people in their 'get' fottaly tine.

To me that 20 to 1 is more important than 1 in 20.

I maybe wrong, I often am.