Abbott’s Strategy to Buck the Trend of Poor Diabetes Performance

Posted in Research and Development by Jamie Hartford on October 16, 2013

The company is focusing on its R&D pipeline to counteract the effect competitive bidding for Medicare patients is having on sales of diabetes devices. 


The diabetes market in the United States represents a huge opportunity for medical device makers. More than 25 million people in the country—8.3% of the U.S. population—have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. What’s more, 79 million people have prediabetes, which means the incidence of the disease will continue to grow. So why, with an already huge market that is likely to expand even further, are some device makers seeing sales of diabetes products slow?

One way to improve diabetes devices is by adding wireless and internet connectivity to implantables such as insulin pumps. Learn more about how to bring mHealth and implantables together at MD&M Minneapolis on October 28, 2013.

U.S. sales of Johnson & Johnson’s diabetes products tumbled 27.7 percent year over year last quarter. Vice president of investor relations blamed the decline on lower prices driven by CMS’s national mail-order competitive bidding program for diabetic testing suppliers, wherein device makers compete to become Medicare contract suppliers. In its Q2 earnings report, Insulet predicted it would lose $10 million in revenue over the second half of the year as a result of the program, which was implemented this past summer.

In its Q3 earnings call, Abbott also admitted that U.S. diabetes sales, which rose 1% year over year, were impacted by competitive bidding for Medicare patients, but chairman and CEO Miles White said the effects on Abbott were not as pronounced as on some other companies. “Our strategy has been different there than some of our competitors, and I think we have held share and revenues very well,” he said during the call.

That strategy, he said, has been focusing R&D efforts on developing innovative products, especially continuous glucose monitors.

“…I think [we] are beginning to get some visibility now in terms of continuous testing and so forth that I think will be game changing and very well received by the market,” White said. “That's very different than the base core business today. But we have actually great expectations and aspirations about that. And we think we are in a position here that others are not in, at least in this particular category.”

Abbott’s FreeStyle Navigator Continuous Glucose Monitoring System received FDA approval back in 2008, and CFO Tom Freyman hinted that a new system could be on the way.

“…[It] captures some of the intent of Navigator but in a very different way. So I think it's meant to address the frequent tester, the insulin dependent tester and the person who clearly wants easy but frequent continuous monitoring instantaneously and in a different way, somewhat different way than Navigator but it's clearly met to address those who were Navigator users and others and frankly on top of that.”

Medtronic's Paul Krause will discuss how to integrate wireless and internet connectivity into implantable devices such as insulin pumps at MD&M Minneapolis on October 28, 2013.

Jamie Hartford, managing editor, MD+DI 

[image courtesy of PAT138241/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]

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