“Hard” or “soft” expiry dates: a Spirit Combo story

We see “expiry” dates on many medical items, and some of them are often treated with a little disdain. For example, lancets tend to last for aeons, and CGM sensors don’t stop working right when their expiry date passes. The Accu-Chek Spirit Combo pump has a few “features” many people seem to not be aware of, and the one I’m writing about here is related to the age of the pump.

Insulin pumps generally have a 4-year warranty and support contract. After 4 years we get a new pump (here in Australia that’s generally through private health insurance, although some insurers are now pushing back to 5 years and more where they can). Our old pump may still work, and makes a great backup device (e.g. when I travel to remote destinations such as Antarctica or even just outback Australia I will have my backup pump somewhere in my luggage).

This 4-year support arrangement also applies to the Accu-Check Spirit Combo. And many people still have older Combo pumps around that they use as backups. Over the years, with my backup pumps of all models, I will regularly power up the pump and switch to using it for at least one cartridge. This reassures me that there’s a good chance it will work in an emergency if my main pump fails, and it also means that the pump should be programmed with recent settings.

I know many people happily using Medtronic and Animas pumps which are quite old but are still working great: they just don’t have any warranty. But there’s a slightly hidden issue with the Spirit Combo.

Warnings and Errors

The pump can report a range of errors, including simple things like low battery or cannula occlusion alarms. Two of them are of interest here:


The manual advises a reset routine that involves a new battery, and starting fresh with a new cartridge and infusion set. This rewinds and resets all the mechanics of the pump. But if the E6 error recurs, the advice is to contact the Customer Care team for more assistance (presumably with the expectation that the pump may need replacing).

Note that apparently E6 can occur if you don’t follow the cartridge change process properly (resulting in small amounts of insulin dripping into the cartridge compartment). This was documented in a 2015 TGA recall action.


The routine for this requires removing and replacing the pump’s battery, re-priming the infusion set, checking all settings (including date and basal profile) and continuing. Again, if the error recurs, contact Customer Care.

Hopefully these E6 and E7 errors will never occur, but if they do at least the pump gives you a chance to reset it and try again. The pump also has a range of warnings, including things like “cartridge low” to prompt you to refill the pump. But one is particularly relevant here:


The manual says “The pump has reached six years of life. You way want to consider updating to a new product.”

Discussions with tech support staff indicate that apart from that subtle sales pitch, there’s a side-effect. Apparently after W4 has been triggered, any subsequent E6 or E7 error will be fatal and the pump will be unusable.

What does this mean?

This doesn’t mean that once the expiry date passes the pump would immediately stop working. The pump should continue trucking on as before.

As you’ll see from the image at the top of this article, I’m expecting this to happen on my backup pump next month.

Hopefully your pump will never get an E6 or E7 error. But be aware that if it does after the pump is six years old, that may be “all she wrote”.

8 thoughts on ““Hard” or “soft” expiry dates: a Spirit Combo story”

  1. I had exacty what you described.
    W4,…everyone time when changing Battery…after that an Er 7 that was fatal…..can not delete ist ….probaly the end of the pump….but I think it is just software and programming. Is there a way to put the firmware again? That could probaly solve this problem but nobudy has firmware, cables and a how to??‼️

  2. Dear David,
    Thank you for the article.
    Do you also know the error A 5 which tells that the pump timer is a about to end?
    After this timer ran out the pump will stop working.
    Is is like a soft lock, which could be disabled somehow.

    Thank you in advance!

  3. Great article explaining this problem.

    I have just had the e7 error and nothing I do seems to fix it. luckily I got a new pump a few years ago but never used because I’m too lazy to set it up lol.
    I find it funny to think they could potentially risk someone’s life by bricking their pumps any random time after the warranty ends.

    1. David Burren

      Well, at least it’s “a random time” (in the face of a pump error) after 50% longer than the warranty (assuming the pump has been powered on for all that time – any breaks where the pump was powered off stops that clock from ticking).

  4. Hi David,
    Thank you for sharing this.

    How to find out, whether the pump has this “feature”? Is it bound to a specific SW-Version?

    I have a Combo produced before 2010 which does not show W4 at battery change.
    This pump has no timer – this is sure.

    Do the 6 years only count down, if the pump is in running mode?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I think it’s 6 years of being powered up. 6 years of being in Run mode might be wishful thinking.

      As far as I know it’s present in all versions.

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