Can Flash Glucose Monitoring Disrupt Diabetes Care (and Revive Abbott’s Diabetes Business)?

Posted in Medical Device Business by Jamie Hartford on April 16, 2014

The technology doesn't require finger pricks and features sensors that last about twice as long as those used in traditional continuous glucose monitoring. Will it be the game-changer Abbott is hoping for? 

Abbott Laboratories, like other device makers, has seen its diabetes device business fall on hard times, thanks at least in part to the competitive bidding program CMS rolled out last July in the United States.

Learn how to design next-generation medical devices in a conference session at MD&M East on June 9, 2014, in New York City.

According to the company’s most recent earnings report, diabetes care sales dipped 9.5% globally. The 4% growth in the segment internationally wasn’t enough to counteract a 27.6% dive in the United States.

But in an earnings call today, Abbott CEO Miles White sounded confident that the company will be able to turn those numbers around soon.

“…[T]his is one unit, I am actually, I am very excited about,” White said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the call.

He lauded the company’s defensive strategy in the face of tough headwinds for diabetes devices but added that Abbott is about to go on the offensive with a "next-generation sensing technology."

"...[I]t hasn’t had a lot of visibility yet. It will in the coming months," White said. "We keep referring to what is next-generation. But, frankly, it’s quite a creative product. And I think ... it’s going to have a lot of impact on the business.”

But what exactly is this "next-generation sensing technology"?

At last September’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes Conference, Abbott introduced the concept of flash glucose monitoring, a method of monitoring blood glucose levels that eliminates the daily finger-prick calibrations required for traditional continuous glucose monitoring.

Jared Watkin, divisional vice president of technical operations for Abbott Diabetes Care, told the conference that the system consists of a reader, a sensor, and a sensor applicator. The sensor is factory-calibrated, so it does not require finger-prick calibration by users, and can be worn for 14 days. Users scan the color touchscreen reader over the sensor to obtain a report that includes current glucose level, a trend arrow based on the prior 15 minutes of data, and a graph of the previous eight hours of data. The system uses RFID technology for transmission. In an early feasibility study, the flash glucose monitoring system’s accuracy compared well with traditional continuous glucose monitoring and YSI draws, according to Watkin. 

Abbott has been hinting at this new technology for a while now, so when might it actually come to market? 

Watkin said last year that the company would be starting trials for a flash glucose monitoring product. And while White didn't mention the technology by name, he said in today's call that Abbott expects its “next-generation sensing technology” to be CE Marked in the second half of this year and and to launch in Europe in late summer. 

Learn how to design next-generation medical devices in a conference session at MD&M East on June 9, 2014, in New York City.

Jamie Hartford, managing editor, MD+DI

[image courtesy of PAT138241/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET and altered by MD+DI

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