Just weeks after highlighting optimism around the Abbott (NYSE:ABT) Diabetes Care unit, company officials doubled down on their excitement.
At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, CEO Robert Ford highlighted diabetes as a key area for near-term growth. On the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call today, he explained some of the driving factors behind the positive outlook. It all centers around the Diabetes Care business’ flagship product, the FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
Within Abbott’s fourth-quarter results, Diabetes Care revenues grew the most — 22% — year-over-year. FreeStyle Libre growth came in at 24% for the year, with the CGM ending the year by surpassing $5.3 billion in sales.
“In terms of sales dollars, Libre has become the most successful medical device in history,” Ford said. “It has outpaced market growth in 13 out of the last 16 quarters.”
Libre itself has hardly scratched the surface of possibilities, Ford said, with Abbott yet to “unleash” FreeStyle Libre 3, the most recent iteration of the platform. On top of that, with automated insulin delivery capabilities enabled, there are a number of opportunities, according to the CEO.
A new opportunity
With its 2023 acquisition of Bigfoot Biomedical, a maker of smart insulin pen caps, Abbott took a big step into insulin delivery. However, automated insulin delivery remained uncharted territory — until recently.
Abbott made waves with its incorporation of the Libre platform into a major automated insulin delivery platform this month. On Jan. 8, the company announced the integration of FreeStyle Libre 2 Plus CGM into the t:slim X2 insulin pump. Work remains ongoing with integration into Insulet’s Omnipod insulin patch pump as well.
“Part of the opportunity is a segment that, really, we hadn’t been able to access, which is pump connectivity,” Ford said. “This represents a great opportunity for us. … You’ve got 150,000 to 200,000 new pumpers every year and that’s a patient segment we haven’t been targeting. Now that we’ve got the regulatory clearings and are connecting to all the different pump manufacturers, I think this a good opportunity for us.”
Ford highlighted an independent third-party study showing Libre 3 as “superior to the recently launched product from our competitor across a variety of different metrics.” Those include bias and mean absolute relative difference (MARD), a measure of CGM accuracy, he said.
With the potential of the Libre platform, the basal insulin population and pump users could be a real growth driver for Abbott, the company believes.
“It’s good for patients,” Ford said. “It’s going to be good to have a different option, especially for this patient population where insulin delivery and the whole connected system is important.”
Multiple growth verticals for Abbott
Libre’s growth isn’t limited to the pump market, Ford said, with growth rates pre-Libre 3 launch highlighting that fact.
At J.P. Morgan, Ford said the company aimed to target the mass market with FreeStyle Libre, finding success there. Sales now annualized at more than $5 billion for the device and the company sees even more opportunity. With more than 500 million people living with diabetes worldwide, Ford says Abbott has “just begun to scratch the surface.”
A big opportunity lies in reimbursement, particularly in the U.S. Medicare reimbursement and other broadened coverage play a huge part in Libre’s growth.
Right now, Ford said, most of the population in the U.S. is covered, whether by Medicare, private and commercial coverage. The opportunity is there, the company believes.
“We’ve just got to build the awareness, build the trialing experience with primary care,” Ford said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for quite some time. It’s a nice opportunity, a great growth opportunity for us.”