Diabetes has become a thorn in the fight to live healthy lives. With more awareness and, changing diets and lifestyle, diabetes has become more prevalent. There remains no absolute cure, although more is known about the management and care of the dreaded disease. Abbott, known for diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals, and branded generic pharmaceuticals, is working to better the care for people with diabetes by providing better solutions for people living with the condition .
Noted by the World Health Organization, “Diabetes is on the rise. No longer a disease of predominantly rich nations, the prevalence of diabetes is steadily increasing everywhere, most markedly in the world’s middle-income countries.” According to the American Diabetes Association “After adjusting for population age and sex differences, average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes were 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.” Abbott is about the power of health, and all about diabetes care, maintaining its commitment to research in developing technology and products, including products that help people with diabetes live healthier, fuller lives.
The use of a blood glucose monitor every day is a necessity for those battling the illness. The more one tests the better able to monitor and control glucose levels. The challenge has been how to create a sensor based monitoring system that is simple, discreet and affordable. FreeStyle Libre is the newest Abbott sensor based technology innovation available in Europe and coming to the US. The FreeStyle Libre allows people to monitor their glucose levels without the need for routine finger pricks
Excitedly, the Senior Director of New Product Innovation for Abbott’s diabetes business, Joel Goldsmith, speaks of how his company is working with the research and development of innovative products and technologies that are groundbreaking. Goldsmith is not your ordinary pharmaceutical mastermind. Goldsmith is a native of California and founding member of Abbott’s diabetes care product innovation group from inception through design and development. Based in California’s cool Bay Area, the Senior Director proudly wears the title of Technology Evangelist.
Growing the product innovation group at Abbott in order to advance devices to manage illnesses like diabetes is Goldsmith’s passion.
Carol Ruth Weber: In your own words, can you please give me an overview on what Abbott’s diabetes care business does?
Joel Goldsmith: Abbott is a diversified healthcare company. Our company has four primary businesses – diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals, and branded generic pharmaceuticals – each a leader in significant and important areas of health and well-being. The diabetes division falls within its medical devices group.
For people with diabetes, using a strip to monitor blood glucose levels is a method that has been used for years. It becomes a painful daily reminder for those living with this chronic condition. Abbott is aiming to revolutionize the way people monitor their glucose with our new flash glucose monitoring technology that will eliminate routine finger pricks while also providing better, more actionable data for patients and doctors alike.
Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre, currently available in ten countries in Europe, has created a new category of glucose monitoring. It consists of a disposable sensor that is worn on the back of the upper arm, and a reader that can be scanned over the sensor to get a reading.
The chemistry part is a filament that the patient can virtually painlessly insert just below the skin. It is held in place by a sensory patch for 14 days. An electrical signal is sent to the surface of the skin which in turn sends a reading to a hand held device that retrieves three pieces of information- the current glucose reading, a directional arrow to show where glucose is heading, and a map of how glucose is being managed. This tool works to help make patients feel more empowered as well as more knowledgeable when speaking with their doctor.
At Abbott, we believe people with diabetes should have the freedom to be able to enjoy a vigorous, active life. One way we do this in diabetes care is by helping insulin-using people manage their health more effectively and comfortably.
CRW: What brought Abbott’s diabetes business to the Bay Area?
JG: It dates back to the acquisition of Therasense in 2004, which created a footprint for Abbott in California. Because of the wealth of talent and the innovation mindset, Abbott was able to establish their presence in California. One can sense the energy and vibes as well as the diverse group of talent that makes the Bay Area the innovation center of the country.
CRW: Where does the inspiration for your products come from?
JG: Inspiration comes from lots of sources. Abbott is passionate about the unmet users’ needs when it comes to patients and clinicians. The power of health helps the individual to live better and healthier lives. Abbott aims to create products that are patient friendly with simplicity, convenience, and affordability, but also being mindful of the clinical community needs as well.
CRW: What are the biggest issues facing diabetic patients today?
JG: There are millions of people who are undiagnosed. People need the tools to first help diagnose. There is a huge need for access to the latest technology, tools and treatments. Cost effective continuous monitoring will enable people with diabetes to live the lifestyle that they want. The sensor based technology will liberate them from the burden of painful daily finger prick testing.
CRW: Why is diabetes such a growing problem?
JG: A big global question! First you have to recognize the difference between type one and type two diabetes. Type two is the result of diet and limited physical activity. The popularity of fast food and a sedentary lifestyle are contributing to the growth of people living with diabetes. Type one is genetic and is more stable but has grown with population growth. Diabetes never sleeps, if left unchecked, it will become the disease of the 21st Century
CRW: What is the diabetes community looking for in managing the disease?
JG: Less pain! Pricking your finger is a daily reminder of the condition for people with diabetes. People with diabetes sometimes have to prick their fingers up to 12 times per day to maintain glucose levels—it’s painful, it’s invasive and it’s a hassle.
Then there’s the data piece; often people with diabetes don’t have access to enough quality data to be able to make meaningful diet and lifestyle decisions. With the data generated by using the FreeStyle Libre system, we’ve essentially taken what was previously a polaroid picture and provided customers a movie of their glucose data in its place – giving them a much clearer visual representation with actionable insights.
CRW: What do you hope to see in the future of diabetes treatment and management?
JG: Considering the effects of diabetes as a global epidemic, most important is diagnosing people who have yet to be diagnosed. We must have the affordable less invasive tools that will help people continue to monitor frequently in order to stay as healthy as possible. The circle effect allows patients to monitor themselves in order for clinicians to have the important information that enables them to work with the patient. I’m proud to be a part of the innovation team that dedicated years to the creation of Freestyle Libre. Our team includes engineers that cover everything from materials to mechanics to software.
Goldsmith emphasizes the need for growing awareness about the health consequences of diabetes in order to help people at risk as well as those who want to prevent the onset of diabetes.
“Diabetes is a growing global issue that Abbott is focusing on in order to create products to impact lives for the better and make a difference.”
Although Abbott is a global healthcare company, its aim is to be sensitive to consumer’s needs in order to improve and maintain people’s health. Abbott’s efforts to keep the company consumer focused have introduced innovators into its world of healthcare. Through innovative ideas and development of devices, Goldsmith is working with Abbott in following their mission to help people live their best lives.
With innovative thinkers the battle against illness can be won. Never be afraid to dance!
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