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.
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Small company DexCom, finds itself a leader in continuous glucose monitoring, the hottest new segment of glucose monitoring, a business otherwise dominated by giant companies. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is all the buzz at diabetes and critical care clinical meetings these days. CGM systems give diabetic patients in the home (or the hospital) glucose readings at any hour of the day without the need to get out the finger-stick testing paraphernalia. More than that, though, CGM is a new tool for achieving tight glycemic control, and avoiding the excursions above and below the normal glucose levels, which are responsible for the hospitalizations as well as the long-term harmful consequences of diabetes. As a frontrunner in the field, DexCom shares with Medtronic the challenge of proving the value of CGM to payers, especially since the task involves throwing over the gold standard by which successful glycemic control is measured-the HbA1c test.
At a time when the US industry is undergoing perhaps its most serious crisis of leadership and confidence, it was appropriate that Bill George, former chairman and CEO of Medtronic was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award at this year's Phoenix Medical Device and Diagnostic conference for CEOs, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Versant Ventures, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Windhover Information. Honoring Bill George at this particular time is propitious because George has spent his career promoting the importance of individual values and responsibility in corporate leadership, and has just published "Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value," a book that defines the qualities he considers essential attributes for corporate leaders to successfully manage companies built to deliver long-term value.
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.