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Becton Dickinson, with Heavyweight Helpers, Finally Jumps into Diabetes Testing

Executive Summary

Becton Dickinson & Co.'s announcement in January that it is entering the diabetes testing business laid to rest questions about its commitment to a field it has tinkered with for years. The move, however, raised new speculation about the company's ability to make inroads in a market it is entering late and which is dominated by Roche and Johnson & Johnson, who are willing to protect their lucrative shares of the monitoring business with heavy product development and marketing spending.

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Medtronic and MiniMed: Stuck on the Balance Sheet

MiniMed's growth rate has been slipping down through the teens for some time: the introduction of long-acting basal insulin is slowing growth of its core insulin pump business, and development of a continuous glucose monitoring system has seemingly slowed to a snail's pace. And the dynamic growth opportunity envisioned two years ago, when Medtronic bought MiniMed, is now impinging on the parent corporation's balance sheet.

Medtronic and MiniMed: Stuck on the Balance Sheet

MiniMed's growth rate has been slipping down through the teens for some time: the introduction of long-acting basal insulin is slowing growth of its core insulin pump business, and development of a continuous glucose monitoring system has seemingly slowed to a snail's pace. And the dynamic growth opportunity envisioned two years ago, when Medtronic bought MiniMed, is now impinging on the parent corporation's balance sheet.

BD's Challenge: Making Everything Old New Again

Recent legislation requiring hospitals to convert to safety devices to prevent needle-stick injuries has come as a kind of validation for Becton, Dickinson, the market leader in needles and syringes, whose efforts to develop safety products began well before customers or the government required them. Critics have charged that like all big companies with strong market share positions, BD has lagged in technology innovation, preferring to spend its time and energy defending its existing products. BD officials insist that just the opposite is true. But creating meaningful innovation is difficult in the kinds of high volume, low margin product lines that needles and syringes became over the 1980s and 1990s. For one thing, clinician input into new technology designs is rare; at the same time, the statistical data to back the importance of safety product conversions is scant. Perhaps most daunting, in a cost-constrained hospital market, the economic pay-off is still small, at least relative to other medical device innovation. Still, BD officials say, they persevered, leading the way in safety device innovation at a time when the company's interests, arguably, would have been better served defending its core line of conventional devices.

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