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Going Direct: FAA Med Progress On Diabetes Isn’t Enough

Oklahoma City’s approval of a few conditions for a few pilots masks a culture that’s stuck in the past, with pilots paying the price.

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It’s a feel good story, right? A Southwest Airlines captain, Bob Halicky, who’s 59, made the first FAA-sanctioned flight by an airline pilot with insulin-treated diabetes. That milestone, which happened two days ago, saw Halicky in the right seat for a flight from Las Vegas to Sea-Tac. Congratulations to Captain Halicky! There are, a story on CNN.com reported, six pilots in total who have gotten the okay to fly with insulin-treated diabetes.

That said, it shouldn’t have taken so long. I won’t go into the specifics of diabetes. I’m not an expert, and it’s a complicated subject. But suffice it to say that treatments and monitoring have come a long way in the past decade. My colleague Diane Fennell, who’s editorial director for sister publication Diabetes Self-Management, where she’s worked since 2003, has kept a close eye on the state of treatment and told me, “In recent years, there have been significant advances in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, including the development of new insulin formulations, the widespread adoption of CGM technology (which allows users to continuously track their glucose levels), and the approval of hybrid closed-loop systems that automatically monitor glucose and adjust basal insulin doses.” A main takeaway, she said, is that “research suggests adults with type 1 diabetes who wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) most days can improve their blood glucose control without increasing their risk of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).”

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