Ever year, 5 million people die from diabetes, and with hundreds of millions of people expected to develop the disease in the coming decades, there's a significant need for new treatment approaches. One promising approach that could revolutionize treatment is the use of next-generation technology to track a diabetes patient's blood sugar levels and determine the proper dosage of diabetes medicine for them. For example, DexCom (NASDAQ:DXCM) is using technology to create systems that allow patients and care givers to better chart their glucose levels so that they can more effectively manage their disease.
In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare podcast, analysts Kristine Harjes and Gaby Lapera are joined by Todd Campbell to talk about how medical devices like this are harnessing technology to improve outcomes in diabetes patients.
A transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on Jun. 15, 2016.
Kristine Harjes: One other element, too, investing in this space from a treatment perspective that I find intriguing, is in medical devices, because convenience is super important, as this is a chronic condition.
Gaby Lapera: Absolutely. That really helps people manage it. Devices help people manage their diabetes a lot better than they did before. There is a new, well, I guess, a new-ish class of device that can be inserted on the body, on the skin somewhere, and it continuously monitors your blood sugar, and will administer insulin depending on what your current blood sugar level is.
Harjes: These are called CGMs, continuous glucose monitors. The big company that's making them right now that I know is one of your favorites, Todd, to talk about is DexCom.
Todd Campbell: Right. DexCom is making these continuous monitors that are allowing you to basically chart your blood sugar over time, which is amazing. Gaby, you brought up the fact that if you put on a shirt, you feel it at first. Then you don't feel it the rest of the day. Yes, you may be able to tell when you're out of sorts or when your blood sugar is off, but DexCom has found that 70% of the time, most diabetics are outside of their desired range in blood sugar. I think the analogy makes sense to be used here, too. You just don't know sometimes what you're getting in creeping up closer to those problem zones that that's actually happening. By charting the data, being able to keep better track of it in this way, then you can better control it. If you can better control it, maybe then you can delay the progression of the disease and delay things like cardiovascular events.
Harjes: Another point to make here is that this is becoming a pretty high-tech space, where you get companies that are coming in and want you to be able to see your continuous glucose levels on your iPhone, and to be able to send that to your doctors, send that to your parents, send that to the people that really matter.
I had a conversation earlier this year with the CEO of a company called Livongo -- they're a privately held company. You might recognize the CEO's name, Glen Tullman. He's the former CEO of Allscripts. Anyway, this is also mentioned in a March interview that I did with MuleSoft, for those of you who have been listening to the podcast for a couple of months now or longer.
Anyhow, Livongo is making a ... What their goal here is to monitor chronic conditions remotely via a connected device. Then you can send the data to your doctors for analysis. You can share it with people that matter to you, as we were just mentioning. They also have a staff of coaches that's available for support and monitoring.
This is a company that has a reach in general chronic conditions, but they started off just in diabetes, mostly because it's such a humongous disease. It really, really matters. Plus, 70% of people with diabetes that are 50 years or older have one or more other chronic diseases.
You get companies that are coming into this space because they recognize that there's a huge unmet need. They're really changing the way that we treat this disease and the lives of the people that have to manage it every single day.
Editor's note: CGMs at this point do not administer insulin.