New testing system could be good news for diabetics, pose challenges for Broward company

Every day, diabetics must draw blood from their fingertips to test their glucose levels. It’s a nuisance to many, but it helps them determine how much they can eat, and for some, how much insulin they need.

But a new “continuous” glucose monitoring system by Abbott Laboratories, which is designed to work without a blood sample, has the potential to shake up the status quo. In late September, the Food and Drug Administration approved the monitor for marketing. Before it has even hit stores in the U.S., the system, which is expected to become available in December, is turning some heads in the medical device industry.

Trividia Health of Fort Lauderdale, which makes blood glucose meters and strips for diabetics, could well be among the companies that feel economic pressure from the new product. CEO Scott Verner said he still sees plenty of room in the market for glucose monitors that require blood samples. He said Trividia will continue making blood glucose monitors — with its own innovations. But he acknowledged his company may look at acquiring technology that could lead to a “no prick” option for its customers.

For 25 years, Trividia has made private label blood glucose monitors for retailers including Walgreen’s, CVS and Walmart. More than 2.5 million consumers use the meters. Trividia said it has nearly a 12 percent market share, which puts it in third or fourth place in the U.S., competing with heavyweights including Abbott, Rouche, Bayer/Panasonic, and Johnson & Johnson.

Abbott’s Freestyle Libre Flash system combines a patch with a sensor that’s inserted beneath the skin, which can be worn for 10 days. The user waves a handheld mobile device over the patch to retrieve readings.

The level of patient acceptance of the Libre and the impact on competitors like Trividia depends on many factors: How many people are comfortable with the wearable device, the cost of the product, whether Medicare and private insurers will pay for it, and how accurate the device proves to be.

The Libre, which launched in Europe, already has 400,000 users in 40 countries.

Nancy Talio, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator for Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s diabetic management program, said some of her patients “would definitely want to wear” a continuous glucose monitor, to avoid the uncomfortable finger-sticks to draw blood.

Diabetics who already wear insulin pumps might also be more accepting of wearable monitors, said Talio, who has type 1 diabetes herself.

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