Tandem Diabetes T:Slim Warranty Fail

Since my pump warranty runs out this fall, I have eagerly followed the release of the t:slim insulin pump. All outward appearances hold the promise of groundbreaking technology. The company said that it did extensive user studies with diabetics. This process, they claim, allowed them to produce a pump that incorporated good design informed by people living in the real world. Makes sense.

This pump also breaks ground with its style and design changes that reduce the pump thickness and build in the look and feel of a modern electronic device like an iPhone. The company website contains videos of pump beta testers. The testers claimed that the pump was very easy to learn and many even claimed that they were able to avoid even reading the manual.

So I called Tandem customer service to ask a few questions that were not posted to their website. In particular, I inquired about pre-purchase trial availability and their warranty terms. While they have a four year warranty they do not have a pump trial or a 30-day money back guarantee policy. Their policy is to fix or replace any defective pumps.

I was incredulous at this anti-consumer policy. This is the first pump by this company and as such, there exists a certain amount of risk on the part of purchasers that this product could contain some serious and unexpected flaws. And the company has a zero track record with customers.

My insurance will not pay for another pump if my existing pump warranty period has not expired. This fact combined with Tandem's warranty inflexibility dampens my interest in this product. If the company was truly confident in its groundbreaking technology why is it afraid to offer either a trial period or a 30 day money back guarantee? I don't get it.

I talked with a very friendly and understanding customer service rep (also a T1) as well as her supervisor. I was told that the company is standing firm on this policy.

Do I take a chance on this new technology and possibly expose my health to an unforeseen technical glitch? What the company is asking me to do is to make a four year commitment without any trial whatsoever. I don't like company policies that put all the power on their side of the equation. I interpret that in a negative way. Am I being overly cautious?

Maybe they are going "all in" that their pump is so awesome no one will possibly not like it? If there's "a glitch", the warranty would cover it. Unless the glitch were so horrible it put the company out of business?

What worries me most is an unexpected problem that the warranty will address but not cover it in the way that truly makes me happy with the product. More likely is a design flaw that is not crucial but very irritating that the company will inadequately fix. I'm thinking of the Omnipod's inability to address its flawed IOB calculation.

I've had to live with the Ping's seeming "devotion" to maximizing keystrokes for the last four years. These devices are such a fundamental part of our lives, I seek to reduce irritations, not volunteer for some more!

Is this unusual in the pump market? You would think Tandem would be confident enough to offer a money-back guarantee. I'm not really worried about safety or effectiveness due to the exhaustive approvals by the FDA but I would think individual preferences are sometimes not obvious until a product is handled in person.

I look forward to the Tslim having its own group here and reading what real users think.

Good question. I called Medtronic and found out that they offer trials and a money back guarantee policy.

I also find baffling, given Tandem's apparent confidence in their product, that they would not offer a trial or a money back guarantee. I don't get this.

Failing Tandem's change of heart on this policy, I, too, will have to wait and see what the initial users report.

And hopefully once Tandem gets a network up and running, people can request an in-person demo from a local trainer?

I think that both Medtronics and Animas are bigger companies so maybe they have their business set up to "eat" a few pumps. Tslim may not be as big and it may also be that they want to make a splash and get users to compete in the market dominated by the current players so, in exchange for their fancy, blinking lights, you can't return it. I haven't ever considered the different pump brands. I think that sometimes Medtronics are cast as the "big company" vs. Animas the "underground" choice and that the Ping is thought to be "cooler" because of it's own fancy display but Johnson & Johnson is a much larger company than Medtronics which, in turn, is a much larger company than Tandem. Although Tandem seems intent on getting as much out of their "launch" as they can.

The Medtronics 523 does everything I want a pump to do and I could care less what the interface looks like. I sort of like the "pager" aesthetics of the thing as it's sort of retro/ steampunk.

AR - I understand your satisfaction with your current, but not the "latest and greatest," pump. I once kept a Medtronic pump for 10 years with this same sentiment. But when I upgraded to another Medtronic pump I was pleased to learn and make use of some important functions that I now consider essential. For example, I love the bolus calculation that takes into consideration carb count and/or my current BG. I got to offload the arithmetic burden onto the pump computer and not be forced to rely on my BG challenged brain!

Once I realized the importance of taking advantage of real value technology gains, I told myself that I would try to stay on top of what the diabetes technology vendors offer. I realize that I'm lucky to have good insurance coverage. Without that financial help, I wouldn't be able to afford staying current.

By the way, I don't consider the Ping pump screen as a positive feature of the Ping. I still can't read its low-resolution screen during the night and in the bright sunlight, I can't read anything at all!

Don - I also hope that situation evolves. As of now, Tandem does not offer that. It's too bad. I really am enticed by the t;slim. I hope the company has hit a home run! But they require more risk from me than I think is reasonable.

Yeah, for me, I want the screen as simple as possible so I can turn it off until it starts bleeping. In one of these threads someone talked about the Animas "menus" being more intricate. On one hand, I like "fine tuning" and playing with boluses but I use my pump while I'm running and biking so the simpler the interface the better.

I've also been very pleased w/ the "predictive alerts" on the MM 523 as I'm always "hmmm, I'd better eat something..." *munch munch* and the "predicted low" alert will come on while I'm eating. Same thing with running, I get home from work, toss my gear on, have a little snack and hit the road. The snack makes my BG go up and I get the "predcted high" about a mile (8-10 minutes...) into it then, when I turn for home 20-40 minutes later, the "predicted low" alert comes on.

To me the fact that I've been able to dial in those features like that makes me leery of shopping around for other pumps right now.

These "predicted" alerts that you talk about, are these a part of a Medtronic CGM? It's great to have your BG radar confirmed. I always like it when I can outsmart the machine. Sometimes I don't spend that much attention on things and I'm grateful that the machine gives me a nudge.

Me personally I almost NEVER go with first generation releases. Let the flaws get worked out, I personally want to see what others have to say about the device, how well it works and functions, if there is any thing people dont like about it, if there are a lot of reported pump failure, infusion site problems with it...the list goes on and on.

Christy - Your position is one that I generally adopt, too. It's a good policy on your part since this device affects everyday health and safety -- not to mention the $5k price tag.

In this case, my pump warranty expires this fall and I've met my major medical threshold for the year. This enables me to buy a pump with no out-of-pocket costs before the end of the year. Tandem's policy of no trial program and no short term money back guarantee do nothing to persuade people like you to take a chance with them. I think it works against their building sales' momentum. I'll just bide my time until the end of the year while I monitor others' experience.

I didn't look at it closely enough to notice the $5K price tag. I expect that the pump will do very well with it's biggest customers...insurance companies?

"Your coverage covers the ***snazzy*** Tandem! If you want Medtronics or Animas it's 20% of $5K+ $3K out of pocket. It would be nice if this sort of pressure would nudge the price of Medtronics/ Animas down but the low price is a big wow!

Wow, I never thought I would hear someone describe their pump choice as retro/steampunk. I love that. Totally how I'm referring to my Medtronic Revel pump from now on!

Me personally - I've stuck with Medtronic because of reliability. If I have something attached to me 24/7 that has the capability to kill me if it fails, I most definitely want it to be reliable. Have no intent of switching from my Medtronic.

I missed this yesterday but yeah, the CGM on the 523 includes additional alerts, "fall rate" if it's dropping rapidly, "predicted low (or high...)" if it's headed either of those ways, etc. They sort of give you a head's up before it gets there?

For anyone interested in this issue, there is a new column posted today written by MikeH at Diabetes Mine about Tandem's no-trial, no return policy. It's interesting that the DOC is starting to push back on this misguided policy decision by Tandem Diabetes Care.

I have great hope for the t:slim pump and worry that this stance by Tandem may contribute to their market failure. I, for one, am likely to put off purchase of their pump for another four years. If they are still in business and their product is proven, I will seriously consider their pump then. It's too bad; I was excited about this new pump! For me, however, I'd much rather commit to a tried and true design than to possibly end up embroiled in some major design flaw or even left unsupported by the failure of the company.

Read MikeH's article, it offers some insight into Tandem's thinking in their poor policy decision.