We should be further along

We should be further along

This morning we were reading an article about Novo Nordisk’s relationship with actor Anthony Anderson, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes over 20 years ago. The actor is currently starring in the TV show “Black-ish” but has appeared on many shows including one of our favorites Law and Order. Anyway on an upcoming episode of Black-ish Novo’s Get Real About Diabetes ad campaign makes an appearance.

At the same time we are all well aware how patients with diabetes are at increased risk of developing the coronavirus. Social Media along with conventional media are filled with stories about the additional risks faced by patients with diabetes.

In our own world we have stocks like Livongo hitting new highs thanks to the virus even though their program does not prevent patients from getting it nor does it help them should they develop it. Livongo is hitting new highs based solely on the fact that they use telemedicine, well a form of it, to communicate with their patients with diabetes. Yet Livongo isn’t the only BGM/Diabetes coaching platform to benefit from this belief as Dario Health, a Livongo wannabe, is also seeing its stock jump on the same misguided belief.

Dexcom is about to hit an all-time high based partially on the fact that people are discovering … wait for it … that CGM is better than BGM and that …wait for it … the G6 sensor is not just accurate and reliable but a cost-effective tool when used in a hospital setting. Ironically the coronavirus is doing something no amount of paid advertising could ever do as it creating greater awareness among physicians who all of sudden are discovering the many benefits of CGM.

The question we have is will the coronavirus do something that has never been done before, light a fire in the diabetes population. Patients with diabetes thanks to social distancing are also discovering the benefits of telemedicine and becoming more aware of the many tools available to them that can help them more effectively monitor and manage their diabetes. We have said for years that the problem with diabetes management is not the toys in the toy chest or the drugs in the medicine cabinet. The problem has been getting patients to play with the toys and take their meds as prescribed.

Could this current crisis finally push patients from being passive to active participants with their diabetes management? Or will it be just another failed effort at getting patients engaged with their diabetes management? Once this crisis passes will things go back to the way they were before, or will there be a lasting beneficial impact?

Since the crisis has not yet passed there is no way of knowing for sure. However our 20 plus years of covering this industry does not give us reasons to be optimistic. Not to beat a dead horse but we have seen some incredible advancements in diabetes management over the years. While we would never say that diabetes management is a snap it has become much easier over the years. That is if the patient wants to play an active role in their diabetes management.

Even with all the attention being paid to telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and virtual doctor visits the fact remains that even with these tools nearly two thirds of all patients are not achieving good control a fact that has not changed since well before we began writing Diabetic Investor over 20 years ago. Hence the reason we are not overly optimistic that once this crisis ends that much will change.

The fact is the coronavirus is not the first-time diabetes has taken center stage moving from the health section of the paper to the front page. Diabetes has also been front page news with the furor over the “high” out of pocket cost of insulin. Before that there was the Avandia controversy when diabetes was not just front-page news but also the subject of congressional hearings. Unfortunately as so often happens the news shifts, people turn their attention elsewhere and things go back to the way they were before.

Diabetes is a global epidemic expanding beyond a healthcare crisis to an economic crisis. This problem is not going away and based on history will only get worse. Still everyone is fascinated with the toys in the toy chest and the drugs in the medicine cabinet when they should be focused on getting patients to play with the toys and take their meds. Until the focus shifts to the patient nothing will change.

Yes, some progress has been made over the years, but the fact is we should be much further along than we are. Billions have been spent, billions have been made and still the majority of patients aren’t getting any better. Looking for the good out of a bad situation the coronavirus could serve as the launching pad, but our experience tells us that this rocket will flame out and things will go back to the way they were before.

Once companies like Livongo flame out it will be onto the next shiny new toy, the next whiz bang way cool toy. New drugs will come along that just like the drugs before won’t be taken as prescribed. And everyone will sit around and wonder why when the answer is obvious, until the patient has real skin the game has a real reason to manage their diabetes nothing will change. Everyone else is making money here and it’s about time patients share in this bounty.