Yet Another New Glucose Monitor

Yet Another New Glucose Monitor

It’s a rare occasion that Diabetic Investor writes about the launch of yet another glucose monitor given there are already too many monitors on the market.  It’s even rarer that we write about Abbott (NYSE:ABT) doing something right in the glucose monitoring market. However, today is the exception not because we think Abbott is about to change the market rather today’s news shows where this market is going and just how dependent BGM companies have become on insulin using patients.

First, the news- according to a company issued press release:

“Abbott today announced that it has received CE Mark (Conformité Européenne) for its new FreeStyle InsuLinx Blood Glucose Monitoring System, the first blood glucose monitoring device from Abbott that includes a mealtime (bolus) insulin calculator for calculating suggested insulin doses. The new FreeStyle InsuLinx System also offers several additional user-friendly features, including a touch screen interface, automated logbook, personalization preferences and USB connectivity for plug-and-play reports via the new FreeStyle Auto-Assist data management software. The FreeStyle InsuLinx System will be available in select countries within Europe beginning in May. It is currently not available for sale in the United States.”

As Diabetic Investor has been reporting the future of glucose monitoring is making the monitor a more valuable tool rather than just a dumb device that simply delivers a test result and comes in pretty colors. The introduction of the InsuLinx is just further confirmation of this fact. Looking over the InsuLinx Abbott really isn’t doing anything revolutionary rather they are combining many existing features into one easy to use device. Basically what Abbott has done is look over monitors already on the market and taken their best features and put them into one device.  The Contour USB from Bayer was the first to use plug and play. The Sanofi-Aventis iBGStar, not yet available in the US, already has an automated logbook, personalization preferences, and touch screen interface and bolus calculator through its iPhone app. About the only feature Abbott did not incorporate from a competitor was a cellular interface that allows the monitor to easily send readings to the patient’s physician, insurance company or educator.  Something offered by BGM newcomer TelCare, the TelCare system also allows the patient to reorder test strips right from their meter another neat little feature.

The InsuLinx and TelCare systems are just the first of a new generation of monitors directly targeted at insulin using patients as diabetes management tool.  While Diabetic Investor sees this as a positive development, these “smart monitors” do have their pitfalls. The main pitfall being the amount of patient interaction with the device; for any bolus calculator to be effective the patient must have more than an average amount of education. While this may seem obvious as insulin, while an effective therapy option, is also a very dangerous drug when used improperly.  Patients on insulin therapy must understand things like duration of insulin action, insulin to carbohydrate ratios, carbohydrate counting, insulin on board, target glucose ranges, etc. All of this information needs to be entered into the system and monitored as it can change over time.

These “smart monitors” also assume that insulin patients are regularly monitoring their glucose levels, which again may seem obvious but is not always the case in the real world. As Diabetic Investor has stated previously many physicians in an attempt to keep insulin dosing simple, dumb down the process by telling their patients to simply take X amount of insulin with every meal. This is particularly true with primary care physicians who treat nearly 80% of the patients with diabetes.  Insulin using Type 2 patients in particular fall into this group as well.  Physicians understand that while they would like their patients to monitor their levels on a regular basis and count the carbs they eating, many patients don’t. As we have said before physicians, primary care physicians in particular, do not have the resources and are not compensated for educating their patients and for insulin therapy to be safe and effective, education is a must.

Still Diabetic Investor sees this move towards “smart monitors” as a plus just as smart insulin pumps made insulin pump therapy easier for patients. Abbott could really make hay if they would add diabetes education to their new FreeStyle Auto-Assist data management software or provide a web-portal where insulin using patients could enhance their diabetes education. Some may see this as unnecessary as physicians and diabetes educators should be providing patient education but as we have seen this is just not the case. Physicians don’t have the resources and are not reimbursed for education, while there just isn’t enough Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) available to handle the exploding diabetes patient population.

The InsuLinx isn’t revolutionary but is a step in the right direction and Abbott should be congratulated for recognizing where the BGM market is going and stepping up to the plate. Just as everyone copied other advancements in BGM technology, Abbott won’t be the only BGM company to launch a “smart monitor”, try as they might these companies cannot escape the fact that the BGM market is commodity market and technological advancements won’t change that fact. They will just keep coping each other’s advancements and a bolus calculator on a monitor will become as commonplace as alternate site testing, no-coding test strips, small sample sizes and fast test results.

As much as Diabetic Investor sees the InsuLinx as a positive development, it won’t change the overall negative trends in the BGM market.