Topping estimates on Wall Street, Abbott (NYSE:ABT) posted a hefty beat yesterday with its second-quarter financial results. Driving the company’s growth was, in part, its diabetes business unit – sales jumped nearly 40% compared to Q2 in 2017 thanks largely to its sensor-based glucose monitoring system, Freestyle Libre.
“Libre offers a true mass-market opportunity with its unique combination of affordability, accessibility and ease of use and it’s achieving a level of patient adoption that’s unprecedented in the industry with more than 800,000 current users globally,” CEO Miles White said in a call with analysts.
Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre system, which does not require users to routinely stick their fingers for blood samples, won FDA approval in September last year as the first device of its kind.
The system includes a sensor that is placed on the back of the upper arm. Users can capture real-time glucose readings using a hand-held reader that picks up signals from the sensor. Users can also review eight hours of glucose history and keep an eye out for glucose level trends, monitoring fluctuations throughout the day.
Adoption of the system has been strong since nabbing regulatory approval, White told analysts.
“It’s going extremely well. We are on track with where we want to be in terms of patient acquisition and growth, et cetera,” he said. “We have nothing to compare us to. No real market dynamics compare ourselves to other than the acquisition of patients and we expect [to] go out of the year with over a million patients, which is unprecedented and unseen.”
The company considers the Libre system as a mass-market device, White added. Instead of looking to bring its technology to a niche market of tech-savvy patients, White is hoping the system can reach the millions of people living with diabetes around the world, like himself.
“There’s a lot of diabetics in the world, including me. And there are millions that are insulin-dependent and millions that don’t want to be insulin-dependent, et cetera. This product hits the sweet spot and to be a mass-market product, it’s got to be accessible, it’s got to be affordable and it’s got to be affordable in a way that it’s not hard for people to commit to it, use it and find out what it can do for them and so forth,” he said.
Abbott has worked to, among other things, automate its manufacturing process for the Libre system to cut back on costs, White added.
“It’s got so much potential because I think a lot of times, whether it’s a pharmaceutical, a medical device, et cetera – they can be expensive in the healthcare system for recovery of costs and so forth because the number of patients may not be that great,” he said. “So I think the opportunity here remains enormous. I think the growth is quite sustainable.”
Abbott’s full-year sales guidance for its Libre system in the U.S. is pegged between $90 million and $100 million, which White reiterated on the earnings call.
“So at this point, it’s all about how fast can we run? And I think the uptake by consumers, the retention, the repeat, all that, all of our data says this is going well,” he added. “It’s nice to see a product that has that kind of impact. And this one is just fun. It’s just fun.”