Dexcom’s Glucose Monitoring Device Makes Life with Diabetes Easier
People with diabetes now have a much better alternative to finger pricking to test their glucose (blood sugar) levels. The Dexcom G6 CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) system enables them to wear a sensor that wirelessly transmits real-time glucose levels to their smartphone or another device.
While the finger-prick method, which was invented in the 1970s, remains widespread, CGM systems offer a much more effective, comfortable way to monitor glucose.
Dexcom received some big-time attention in February, when its CGM system was featured in a Super Bowl advertisement with recording artist and actor Nick Jonas, who has Type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune reaction that destroys the body’s ability to make insulin and control glucose).
A Problem on the Rise
Diabetes remains a chronic health issue, and the number of people who suffer from it continues to rise, particularly for the 90 percent of diabetics who have Type 2 diabetes (a progressive condition caused by insulin resistance). In 2000, 151 million people worldwide had the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). By 2019, that number had tripled to 463 million, and it’s expected to reach 700 million by 2045.1 Sugary diets and sedentary lifestyles, which can increase susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes, may be contributing to that increase.
The cost of treating diabetes-related health conditions is substantial, reaching $760 billion in 2019, according to the IDF.
Fostering Healthy Lifestyles
Ample evidence demonstrates that the Dexcom CGM can greatly improve patients’ lives. In a survey of 40 current CGM users with any type of diabetes, which was reviewed and approved by George Washington University institutional review board, nearly all participants—97 percent—say it has helped them lead healthier lives. An overwhelming majority—87 percent— report that they change their food choices based on the real-time CGM data they receive.2
Just as promisingly, in a study by Onduo, which provides virtual health care services, 95 percent of 594 adults with Type 2 diabetes participating in a virtual diabetes clinic say the device makes it easier for them to take care of their health, and 80 percent note that it helps them control their diabetes. 3
The self-reported gains were borne out by data on Type 2 diabetics compiled by a healthcare provider and a health insurer. In the same study, Onduo found that patients using the CGM system significantly lowered their weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.4 In a pilot program of 790 Type 2 patients using the system, UnitedHealthcare found that many patients reduced A1c levels (glycated hemoglobin levels in the blood, a measure of blood sugar).5 Perhaps most remarkably, UnitedHealthcare also found that some patients even achieved remission of their disease and did not have any further need for Type 2 medication.
Through the Dexcom Warriors program, the firm shares the stories of people who have been able to make sure their diabetes doesn’t interfere with their busy, active lifestyles. The Warriors include celebrity athletes, actors, and musicians, including the aforementioned Nick Jonas, who has become a highly visible spokesman for people with the illness.
Ordinary people are among the Warriors, too. The firm’s website and social media campaigns showcase people who wear their CGM systems even while doing activities such as skydiving and scuba diving.
Making the Technology Accessible
Dexcom has taken significant steps to make CGM available to more people with diabetes. Since December 2018, the firm has successfully advocated in 17 states to make access to CGM possible for patients who receive Medicaid. The firm has also worked to improve both access to, and insurance coverage for, the therapy in countries worldwide, including Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.
Perhaps the most promising, transformative change has been the firm’s success at increasing access to CGM through U.S. pharmacies by nearly 80 percent. Previously, this device had been available in the United States only through durable medical equipment suppliers. Obtaining the device through that channel, rather than pharmacies, was both more expensive, as it sometimes cost patients more than $500 a year, and more difficult because it required a more involved prescription and approval process.
Offering the device through pharmacies makes it less expensive for the patient because a three-month supply of the system costs only about $45. The device is also easier to obtain. A patient only needs a prescription from their doctor. Lowering the costs also helps make glucose monitoring therapy available to patients with lower incomes.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Sands Capital six investment criteria tend to lead us to businesses that are innovators or vital facilitators of change in industries undergoing significant transformation. Dexcom is one of many portfolio businesses that create impact by addressing at least one major social or environmental challenge identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dexcom’s efforts support the SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being, and SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities.
1 Source: International Diabetes Foundation Atlas, 9th Edition–2019, which provides the latest data.
2 Source: Ehrhardt N . and Al Zaghal, E., “Continuous Glucose Monitoring As a Behavior Modification Tool, ”Diabetes Care 38 (2020). Published online, 1/9/20
3 Source: Data presented at the Advanced Technology & Treatments of Diabetes (ATTD) conference in 2020, based on 594 survey participants. See: “Onduo Presents Data on High Satisfaction and Positive Glycemic Outcomes With the Use of Continuous Glucose Monitoring Through Its Virtual Diabetes Clinic,” Business Wire, 2/2/20
4 Source: Layne, J.E., et al. “Change in A1C With and Without Intermittent Use of CGM in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Participating in the Onduo Virtual Diabetes Clinic.” Diabetes, 2020
5 Source: “Innovative New Level2™ Digital Health Therapy Resulted in Better Health for People with Type 2 Diabetes: New Therapy Offered at No Additional Cost to Certain UnitedHealthcare Members in 27 States,” Business Wire, 7/13/20 All data are for fiscal year 2020 unless otherwise noted.
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