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Abbott Laboratories looks to capture o big slice of India’s diabetes market, the world’s second largest, with its wearable

sugar monitoring device

By C. H. Unnikrishnan, Photograph by Subhabrata Das

US DRUG MAKER Abbott Laboratories has been formulat­ing ever new strategies to boost its presence in the large Indian market. First, in 2010, it acquired Piramal Health­care’s India drug formulation business for $3.72 billion, then billed as the largest acquisition in the pharmaceuti­cals sector in the country, to clinch the top spot in the Rs 90,000-crore Indian pharma market. Then, in 2014, the drugs and nutrition major made its next big move in the country’s fast-growing nutrition market by making India its manufacturing hub. It has now set its eyes on gaining leadership in the country’s diabetes care market, currently estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore — including medi­cines and diagnostics — and growing at a compound an­nual growth rate of 20 per cent.

As part of its latest strategy, Abbott is seeking to steal a march over its competitors in the diabetes care market with the launch of its wearable glucose monitoring device — a revolutionary technology tailor-made for India. The Flash Glucose Monitoring System, as the device is called, ad­dresses one of the biggest challenges in the country’s diabetes care — pa­tients’ fear and hassles of routine blood tests — by taking pain and pathol­ogy labs out of the equation.



Director, Research £Develop- ment, Abbott Diabetes Care

the reader, priced at around Rs 5,000, is a one-time investment for doctors. “The device provides doctors with the glucose profile (of patients), which, in turn, is used to manage diabetes more accurately,” says Shashank Joshi, a senior endo­crinologist.

“Once the data is downloaded from the sensor to a reader, doctors can further transfer it to a computer. A specific software helps generate an Ambulatory Glucose Profile graph, a visual snapshot that helps doctors see when sugar levels shoot up and down over a 24-hour period,” ex­plains Matthew Bates, director, Re­search and Development, Abbott Di­abetes Care. The data helps doctors in making informed treatment deci­sions and modifying treatment to
suit patients’ individual lifestyles. These reports can also be used as an information tool by patients to evalu­ate the impact of food, medication, health and exercise on their blood sugar levels, thus empowering them, says Bates.

Attractive Market

India, with its 65.1 million diabetes patients, has always been an attrac­tive market for innovators looking to make life easy for patients. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Ab­bott has chosen the country as the first market to roll out the profes­sional version of the blood glucose monitoring system.

“Diabetes is closely associated with your lifestyle and you need to have a disease management strategy at­
tuned to your culture so as to make it really effective,” says Bates, who was in India recently to launch the glu­cose monitoring system. The device helps in a more focused approach to diabetes management by putting the doctor in charge, explains Bates.

For Abbott, which aims for market leadership in all the segments it is present in India, this new technology is a step in the right direction for re­alising its ambitious growth plan in the country’s diabetes screening mar­ket. The company is currently pre­sent in three market segments — drugs, nutrition and medical devices. While it is the second largest player with a 6 per cent share in the domes­tic medicine market (after the com­bined entity of Ranbaxy and Sun Pharma that together command.