JP Morgan, What Did We Learn?

JP Morgan, What Did We Learn?

The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is the traditional kickoff of the New Year. Each January hundreds of companies and thousands of attendees cram into the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco to see what lies ahead for the business of healthcare.

Not surprisingly with each successive year more and more of the companies presenting at the conference speak of their greater interest in diabetes. Whether it’s Pharmacy Benefit Managers talking about what they are doing to improve outcomes and ultimately lower costs or Retail Pharmacy chains explaining what they are doing to reach the valuable diabetic consumer. Let’s not forget about the many drug and devices companies who explain how their particular drug or device fits into a patient population that is growing at epidemic rates.

For 2009 what was said was all too familiar and quite frankly, not that newsworthy. We already knew that the future of Amylin (NASDAQ:AMLN) is directly tied to the long-acting once a week version of Byetta which continues on track for a mid-2009 submission to the FDA. It’s also well known that Lilly (NYSE:LLY) Amylin’s partner sees Byetta LAR as a potential mega-blockbuster. And it’s no surprise that the third side of the Byetta LAR triangle Alkermes (NASDAQ:ALKS) also is anxiously awaiting LAR’s submission to the FDA.

 Nor did we learn much from the many device companies that presented. We already knew that Insulet (NASDAQ:PODD), the maker of the OmniPod, future is tied to cost of goods. It should surprise no one that Home Diagnostics (NASDAQ:HDIX) is benefiting from their value strategy in these tough economic times. It’s been obvious for some time that both Abbott (NYSE:ABT) and Roche have no coherent strategy to reinvigorate their sinking blood glucose monitoring units. A fact further reinforced by Roche’s latest Rock My Meter campaign which was designed by some genius who thinks patients will test more frequently because they can make their meter look nice. The facts already told us that Bayer continues to gain market share and will likely gain more as the year progresses. And finally in the device area we knew already that Dexcom (NASDAQ:DXCM) is headed in the right direction.

Looking at drugs not yet on the market MannKind (NASDAQ:MNKD) continues to try and sell the story that AFRESA their inhaled insulin really isn’t an inhaled insulin but a better insulin that happens to use an inhaled delivery system. While AFRESA may be a very good product the fact is when people hear inhaled insulin, they think Exubera and how Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) lost $4 billion trying to make it work.

The reality is that for 2009 the most important decisions directly impacting the diabetes market will likely come out of Washington D.C. and the incoming Obama Administration. We have yet to learn who will head the FDA or just what Congress will do to reform healthcare. We have yet to learn how the new guidelines issued by the FDA will impact the approval process for new diabetes drugs.

For our part Diabetic Investor hopes the upcoming medical conferences will be more interesting than what came out of JP Morgan. Thankfully we can count on Washington to provide some much needed spark to the year. Otherwise 2009 could be a pretty dull year.