Despite the current fierce price war in blood glucose monitors, industry analysts predict strong growth in the product sector for at least the next decade. The growth is fueled by an ongoing diabetes epidemic healthcare providers are still struggling to control.
"According to the American Diabetes Association, some 798,000 Americans are diagnosed each year, and each of them will spend an average of $2,500 to $3,000 a year on needles, insulin, and blood-testing strips," said Shara Rosen, an analyst with Kalorama Information and author of the May 2006 industry report, "Glucose Testing."
The market for home care monitors alone was $6.5 billion in 2005-a figure that Rosen expects to balloon to $9.86 billion by 2010, at an average annual growth rate of 9%. "Included in this market assessment are blood glucose strips," she said. "World sales in 2005 were approximately $2.5 billion, and will reach $4 billion by 2010."
Helping to drive that growth is the increasing awareness that early detection and maintenance of diabetes translates into reduced treatment costs over the long term. "Healthcare payers are beginning to understand the power of proactive medicine in reducing the cost of caring for the chronically ill, including those with diabetes," Rosen noted.
For the near term, Rosen predicts that traditional blood glucose monitors for home testing that generally require users to prick their fingers for a tiny blood sample are still where the money is. The reason? More advanced technologies, which rely on painless, noninvasive monitoring, or devices that are implanted into the body, go for $3,500-$6,000 a pop. "At this price, these devices appeal primarily to Type I diabetes individuals," Rosen said. "Thus, traditional testing devices will retain their market dominance for at least the next five to 10 years, or until the cost of nonin-vasive devices equals the cost of a year's supply of strips."
Also reinforcing consumers' perception that conventional devices are preferable has been a concerted effort by a number of manufacturers to enhance traditional monitors with a number of new testing features, automated data storage, transfer to a glucose management service, and attractive pricing, Rosen added. "For example," she said, "GenExel-Sein received Food & Drug Administration clearance to market its DUO-CARE device that combines a home-use blood glucose and wrist blood pressure monitor, thus eliminating the need for two separate devices."
Meanwhile, 77 Elektronika's SensoCard models use a biosensor technology that requires a very small blood sample and can return results in five seconds. "SensoCard has the capability of storing the last 500 test results with date and time, and it is also able to calculate the average test results from the last 7-, 14-, 28-day-long time period," Rosen said. The card is also specially developed for the visually impaired, including a speaking function that announces operation instructions as well as test results in a human voice.