WSJ article on glucose monitoring highlights “very early” stage Novartis/Google contact lens, Dexcom G4, & Abbott FreeStyle Libre – July 1, 2015

The Wall Street Journal just ran an accurate and (pretty) balanced article on glucose monitoring, prominently highlighting the Google/Novartis smart contact lens, Dexcom’s G4 Platinum, and Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre. Notably, the piece shared an updated timeline on the commercialization of Google/Novartis’ lens, which is still in the “very early stages of development” and “several years” from availability, according to a Novartis spokeswoman. The timing has not really changed since Google’s initial announcement in January 2014 (“It’s still early days...”), and the project has been fairly stealth since the Novartis licensing deal last July. However, the piece does feature notable optimism from Google’s lead on the project, Dr. Brian Otis, who is “confident” that the battery power challenges have been addressed. [Many continue to wonder about the accuracy/reliability of tear glucose monitoring, something the article does not address unsurprisingly; see more in our coverage of the March patent filing.] The WSJ piece also speaks positively on the accuracy of Dexcom’s G4 Platinum (which drove a “sharp uptick in patient adoption” of CGM following launch in 2012 – we agree), and confirms management’s expectation of a Gen 5 approval before the end of the year. The concluding section shares fairly high enthusiasm for Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre (available in seven EU countries), noting many of the product’s advantages: less intrusiveness, greater convenience, factory calibration, no alarms, and lower cost (see diaTribe’s test drive here). As expected, there is still no FDA submission timing for FreeStyle Libre in the US – we assume this is coming at some point soon, since the pivotal accuracy study wrapped up in March. On a broader level, the piece pegs CGM penetration at ~15% (according to investment firm Cowen & Co), noting that Dexcom is estimated to sell the “vast majority of CGMs used in the US” (it’s hard to know for sure, since neither Dexcom nor Medtronic report units sold). Aside from a picture of the MiniMed 670G hybrid closed loop (currently in a pivotal trial), Medtronic is mentioned in just one sentence, and the author does not discuss the company’s CGM pipeline. Overall, we agree with the piece’s take that better and easier (for both patients and HCPs) glucose monitoring is coming in many forms – what remains to be seen is how quickly we’ll see the innovations, what they will cost, and how quickly patients and HCPs will move to adopt them.