Do You Buy It?

| Oct 1, 1998

Diabetes is a rich and growing industry. Last year alone, the diabetes medication market grew 23 percent. Furthermore, 2,186 more of us are diagnosed with diabetes in this country every day. Do the math and you'll see a growing market.

Last month, I attended the biggest diabetes product show ever. At the AADE conference in Minneapolis, over 180 companies paraded their wares to diabetes educators, all hoping to increase sales to people with diabetes.

I'm happy that we are living in a modern, product-marketing age. In the old system, companies who sold products and pharmaceuticals marketed only to doctors, and the doctors told us what to take. Remember when prescriptions drugs were not allowed to be advertised at all? All that has changed. Companies now advertise and market their diabetes products to us directly. Many people with diabetes have gone to the doctor requesting Rezulin (for their type 2 diabetes) after seeing advertisements in the newspaper.

Rezulin is quite expensive, and it's great that insurance companies and HMOs quickly approved paying for it. It's $5 per pill for the 400 mg size or $1,812 per year per patient. Rezulin users usually take other expensive medications as well. Researchers Valiquett and associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that 400 mg of Rezulin dropped blood sugars about 50 mg/dl, from an average of 234 mg/dl to 184 mg/dl. I wonder if maybe marketers of the local health club should get HMOs to pay for a gym membership for persons with diabetes. Exercise can drop your blood sugar 200 points for a lot less money.

We are cash cows! As a buying group, we have tons of money to spend, and it's growing every day. Research company Frost and Sullivan reports that in 1997 we in the United States spent:


  • $1.27 billion for anti-diabetes pills, like Rezulin and others
  • $877.2 million for strips and meters to monitor our blood sugar
  • $797.7 million for insulin
  • $48 million for natural animal insulin (6%)
  • $749 million for synthetic human insulin (94%)
  • $185 million for insulin syringes
  • $44.6 million for insulin pumps
  • $3.4 million for glucose tablets and gels
  • $2.0 million for pen needles
  • $1.56 million for jet injectors
  • $1.3 million for injection insertion aids
  • $1.2 million for insulin pens

We have so much money to spend on this disease that new companies are jumping to get a piece of the pie. Novo Nordisk's $85 million investment in Aradigm Corporation to help develop an inhalable insulin device is just one example.

I have seen many companies make large investments into products that they hope we will buy. In some cases the products fell flat on their faces. Other multimillion dollar investments, such as those made for several noninvasive meters, are lost completely because, in the end, the product doesn't work.

I propose that we create a list of products we would like to see developed. We all know that a cure would be on top of the list. I hear many patient activists complaining that companies are happy to keep making money on us. A cure for either type of diabetes still looks to be a long way off, so let's look at the next best thing. Let's look at products that we need to help us live long and healthy lives while we wait for the cure.

Many large companies have millions to blow on new product development, so let's give them some ideas of what we really want and need.

Let's say a company with $50 million came to you and said, "We want to develop a new product. What would you like?"

What do we want?

Here are some ideas I came up with, but let's add yours here as well. Send us your ideas, and we'll compile a master list to print in a future issue.

Self-Regulating Insulin

This insulin would release only in the presence of elevated sugar. A polymer or enzyme would bind it up until blood sugar rises, which would release it into the blood stream. Maybe insulin pellets could be placed under the skin, or insulin could be ingested orally in a tablet form.

Low-Cost Testing

America's 40 million uninsured cannot understand why strips for meters need to cost so much. I just read that a company called Medisys has created a reusable strip. We need a meter which can be used over and over so we can test as many times as we want without increasing the cost.

Painless Testing

We would love money to be spent on saving our fingertips. We should continue current research into measuring glucose through the skin, insterstitial fluid, the eyes or even saliva. They're using patches for birth control and nicotine withdrawal. Why can't we get a patch that measures glucose? How about a small electronic transmitter that gets inserted into the bloodstream, continually monitors glucose levels, and projects them to a hand-held device?

An Artificial Pancreas

Scientists are cloning animals in laboratories. Could they build us all artificial pancreases?

Cloning Islets

Many type 1s still have working islets. How about cloning these and replanting them in the body?

What are your dream products? Please send in your suggestions! Our toll-free fax number is (800) 324-9434, or mail them to 3715 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA, 94121. You can voice your opinion by calling (800) 234-1218, ext. 130.


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Categories: Blood Sugar, Columns, Diabetes, Insulin, Insulin Pumps, My Own Injection, Novo Nordisk, Pens, Syringes, Type 2 Issues

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