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Glucose Monitoring Systems: The State of the Art

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The glucose meter market is dominated by established big-company players. They all have a variety of meters to suit the lifestyles of different types of patients, from simple finger-stick lancets to less painful alternate site meters to elaborate systems that capture, store, plot, and transmit data and display dietary information. Most are also aiming their R&D at developing minimally invasive or percutaneous continuous glucose monitoring systems. The companies profiled in this issue each have a product development strategy designed to address the limitations of current technologies, and are directing their efforts at some of the many niches in the glucose testing market.

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The goals being touted in the treatment of diabetes are lofty, with the development of a functional and affordable artificial pancreas topping the list of ambitious undertakings in the industry. The pursuit of such a device has been a Holy Grail quest for some time now, and over the years the feasibility of developing a man-made mechanism to take the place of a faulty body organ has been treated with a share of optimism and skepticism. However, based on recent FDA approvals for multiple manufacturers, it appears the industry is closer than it has ever been to making this goal a reality.

Status Check: Point-of-Care Testing in Hospitals

The in vitro diagnostics industry has looked for years to point-of-care testing in hospitals as a growth segment. The premise is sound--easy-to-use tests performed near the patient will yield faster results that enable physicians to make better on-the-spot treatment decisions. In reality, hospital demand is increasing, but not as fast as expected. A recent survey of one-third of US hospitals with 150 beds or more, by Enterprise Analysis Corp. seeks to understand POCT usage and demand trends.

TheraSense's Sweet Spot

TheraSense is making inroads in the $4 billion diabetes testing market. Its FreeStyle glucose meter system is a quality product--perhaps the best in its class. FreeStyle has gained 6% of the US meter market in less than two years, and that share still appears to be increasing. But in the six years since the company's founding, the market has changed; more than ever, glucose meters are viewed as a consumer item. And TheraSense is competing with much larger companies in the space. TheraSense has already seen the marketing of blood glucose meters change dramatically in the past three years. Should the FreeStyle line wither in the face of big-company competition, it would have little left to drive its stock price.

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