Anticipating Rising Demand Worldwide, Abbott Aims to Boost Production of Freestyle Libre System

Anticipating Rising Demand Worldwide, Abbott Aims to Boost Production of Freestyle Libre System

-Daniel Pereira 

Globally, more and more people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are turning to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology to help manage their condition. The improved accuracy, detail, and consistency of modern CGMs has made them a critical component of care for many, and demand is surging accordingly.

Abbott covered these trends in its earnings call last week, where the medical multinational company reported a 72.9% increase in organic sales for its FreeStyle Libre system for the second quarter of 2019.

“We also continued to make excellent progress in the US, where Libre is now reimbursed for approximately 75% of people with private pharmacy benefit insurance,” Abbott CEO and Chairman Miles White told investors during the call.

A major ramp-up in CGM production

To meet anticipated demand for the upcoming FreeStyle Libre 2 – currently approved for use in Europe but not yet in the United States – Abbott is planning to boost its manufacturing capacity. The goal is to ramp up manufacturing of the device to between  3 to 5 times of current production levels 

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Overall, the firm expects to reach sales of $1.5 billion for the Libre system this year – a significant fraction of  what Goldman Sachs has projected is a $3.7 billion global market for CGMs. To do this, Abbott must expand accessibility to the device, said Jared Watkin, Abbott’s senior vice president for Diabetes Care, told the New York Times in an interview. 

“It’s not good enough to bring this to a small, wealthy population. Diabetes is such a global epidemic that you need to bring products that can really make a dent in that,” Jared Watkin, said in the interview.

Access and cost weighed against features and affordability

CGMs might be vital technology for many with diabetes, but they’re often difficult for patients who have limited access to health insurance or high-deductible plans to afford.

In the past, Abbott has competed with firms like Medtronic and Dexcom on price and ease of access. However, the FreeStyle Libre is an intermittent rather than a truly continuous sensor system like those sold by its competitors.

The current Libre also lacks the alarm systems found in those competing devices, though Abbott company says that those features will be added in the next generation FreeStyle 2. However, the company plans to maintain the same price levels, aiming to expand their reach by keeping costs down. Their competitors at Dexcom and Medtronic seem to have acknowledged this strategy, as both are planning to launch cheaper sensors with fewer features in the near future.

For people with diabetes, enhanced competition in the market and a fuller suite of products to address these needs can only be a good thing. More choice will allow this population greater opportunity to select the products that best meet their needs and their budgets.

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