Abbott CEO: Concerns About GLP-1 in Medtech Are Overblown

There has been a lot of noise in recent weeks surrounding the GLP-1 drugs and their ripple effect on medical technology, but Abbott CEO Robert Ford says these concerns are overblown. level. In fact, Ford remained optimistic Tuesday morning when discussing the potential relationship between the GLP-1 drug and medical technology.

Initially approved to treat diabetes, the drug glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) also shows promise in weight loss. There are currently two GLP-1 drugs approved for weight loss: Liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide (Wegovy).

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GLP-1 drugs can cause the stomach to empty more slowly so that patients feel satisfied with less food, and can also notify the brain that there is food in the stomach to suppress cravings and appetite. These drugs are designed to mimic a protein that the body naturally makes when we eat. When used for weight control, these medications reduce appetite and how quickly food leaves the stomach. As a result, people taking these medications eat less because they think less about food and are satisfied with smaller portions.

Ford cited a recent analysis of Abbott’s U.S. user base showing that a growing number of the company’s continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) sensors are using the drug GLP-1 in combination with the Libre sensor. CGM as part of a combination therapy to control their diabetes. On average, customers who used both Libre and GLP-1 had higher odds of using both products because they wore the Libre sensor more often and took GLP-1 more frequently than Libre customers. other in the United States.

“Increased usage or better adherence is a positive sign that these users are taking a more active role in disease management,” Ford said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. their diabetes”. “While traditionally we think of therapeutic options as competing with each other, this is a great example of a complementary relationship between two products that both helps optimize disease treatment.” diabetes.”

The CEO acknowledged that there are plenty of investors worried about the potential health technology impact of the GLP-1 drug, but he said this worry is probably driven more by those with The “field knowledge” is a little less about medical technology, and they seem to be influenced by the hype of recently published research on a new class of drugs. This hype is creating concerns about a potential long-term reduction in the size of the medtech market, Ford said, and that fear is affecting valuations in medtech.

“I understand that new technologies will naturally make us think differently about the future and I soon thought that initial thoughts about the future are often influenced more by emotions than facts and data and I think that’s what you’re seeing today.” as it relates to GLP-1 and the medical technology market,” he said.

Ford encouraged analysts to think about the bigger picture of how many people are expected to take GLP-1 drugs in the next five years, a number he estimates to be about 10 million to 15 million people.

“It’s a very small fraction compared to the size of the medical device market we’re talking about,” he said.

Ford estimates that about half a billion people have diabetes, another half a billion have cardiovascular disease, and there are also some people with both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He also points out that it is not uncommon for patients to be prescribed medication before or after a medical procedure, and it is not uncommon for doctors to use a combination of tools to help patients control their diabetes. road.

Over time, data from tools like the Libre sensor may even be used to help evaluate the effectiveness of GLP-1 drugs.

“With the diverse portfolio that Abbott has, where we look at healthcare across the spectrum from nutrition to diagnostics to therapeutics, I think this will give the company the opportunity to explore in depth more about where we can bring value to patients who are taking these drugs,” Ford said.

Another point he made regarding GLP-1 drugs was side effects. Like most medications, taking these medications has side effects, including loss of muscle mass over time. That’s where Abbott has experience in nutrition in its business.

“So we have an opportunity here to develop whether it’s nutritional products or other products that can help address one of the side effects, which is loss of muscle mass,” Ford said. “…Bottom line, I think it’s great science, it’s great biology, this is very good for public health in the short term, and I think the concerns are overblown. “

In the long term, say 15 to 20 years out, Ford said he sees many unanswered questions remaining regarding GLP-1 drugs and their impact in medical technology.

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