Lots of gifts under the tree today

Lots of gifts under the tree today

This being the holiday season the wacky world provided a host of gifts today.  First comes news that Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) is joining the big data revolution announcing a partnership with IBM Watson Health. According to a company issued press release;

“The companies will explore possibilities for improved diabetes care via insights from real-time, real-world evidence of Novo Nordisk diabetes treatments and devices. By harnessing the potential of the Watson Health Cloud, Novo Nordisk aims to further advance its offerings to people living with diabetes and their healthcare professionals.”

Novo now becomes the third diabetes company to partner with IBM Watson Health joining Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) and Johnson and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

While we have no doubt this partnership will help Novo develop better therapy options or advancements in diabetes management we also suspect it will help Novo in their quest to differentiate their existing therapy options from their competitors. As we have noted many times with multiple options in each drug class companies are looking for ways they can differentiate their offerings from the competition. Advanced data analytics would be a step in this direction.

Here is a perfect example of where this applies as a recent study published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled Benefits and Harms of Once-Weekly Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonist Treatments: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis attempted to differentiate the various once-weekly GLP-1’s.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Victor M Montori, MD, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, said that clinicians needed “high-quality evidence of the comparative effectiveness of various treatment options. Such evidence can inform patient-clinician conversations to determine which option best addresses the patient’s situation.” Or put in layman’s terms when there are multiple options available in each category all of which appear to do the same thing the same way how does one option stand out from the others.

Think for a moment about what it would mean to Novo if after crunching all the data they found that Tresiba or semaglutide had advantages over their respective competitors. Think also of the onus this puts on the competitors who too must crunch the numbers just to remain on par with Novo.

This exact situation is playing out right now in the SGLT2 as Lilly (NYSE: LLY) has hard data and Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) do not. Now everyone might believe the cardiovascular benefits seen with Jardiance apply to all SGLT2’s but without comparative data no one is 100% sure. Additionally, Lilly has set a pretty high bar for Invokana and Farxiga.

This is both the power and peril of data as it opens doors and also Pandora’s box. As we have noted all along the most powerful use of all this number crunching would be the ability to predict a patient’s behavior BEFORE it happens. This is why Medtronic is partnered with Watson as with predictive analytics their dream of having a true closed loop system goes from being a dream to being a distinct possibility. However, when it comes to diabetes treatments like those offered by Novo one has to wonder whether all this number crunching will truly help physicians make more informed decisions or will it just confuse things further.

Speaking of data, it looks like our friends at Dexcom (NASDAQ: DXCM) might need to have a father son chat with their partner Google. Yes, it seems that Google has filed for a patent for an innovative wearable device with a “needle-loose blood draw” gadget that administers a painless pin prick to attract a single drop of blood. This way cool wearable which when combined with a glucose monitor gives us ..wait for it.. the GlucoWatch. Sorry that’s actually not accurate as the now defunct but constantly reinvented GlucoWatch measured glucose not from a blood draw but from interstitial fluid. (Heck just writing that sentence not just brings back memories of days gone by but also says how long people have been chasing this crap. Yet we digress.)

Now just in case Google has not done their due diligence they may want to talk with the good people at Abbott or the folks at Intuity Medical. Way back in the day Abbott had what they thought was a way cool all in one device which lanced the patients finger and using vacuum technology sucked the blood into the meter which delivered a reading.  Yes, the famous and now very dead Softact.

Yet undeterred the folks at Intuity Medical developed their own all in one device called the Pogo. Like the Softact the Pogo lanced a patient’s finger drew the blood onto a test strip and delivered a reading. Like so many others Intuity raised millions of dollars, assembled a solid team and even submitted the Pogo to the FDA for approval. So where is the Pogo today no one knows for sure but we suspect its sitting at the bottom of the scrap heap right next to the Softact.

Now we could just stop with those two examples but there are more. That yes as sure as night turns into day there are some who still see an all in one device as a viable option. Now these newer versions of all in one devices come with a new twist as these newer versions .. wait for it .. deliver readings to the cloud. Never mind that even if any of these way cool devices make it all the way through the FDA they are just too damn expensive to manufacture or that the conventional BGM market is circling the bowl, nope let’s continue to separate fools from their money.

Listen we know the people at Google are very smart and yes they have mountains of money to spend but this is hardly a new idea nor is it a good one.  Let’s hope our experienced friends at Dexcom will pull them aside and tell them politely this like the their equally dubious contact lenses that measure glucose are way cool but that’s all they are and if they really want to blow millions of dollars better to blow it elsewhere.

Long ago as all these high tech newcomers were entering the wacky world we wondered aloud whether these high tech companies with their huge piles of cash would be smarter. Would they learn from the past? Would they do their due diligence before chasing way cool ideas that have no chance at success but are way cool. Or would they like those before believe that while no one else has been successful they are smarter than everyone else, that they have the magic potion.

We know that PT said that there is a sucker born every minute we just never expected Google to be one of those suckers. Who would have thunk it.