We saw some echoes of 2016 in top stories of 2017. “Artificial pancreas” technology and the disgraced blood testing startup, Theranos, dominated last year’s list with six stories out of 10. This year, they took the top two spots respectively.
Diabetes developments took center stage this year—the most popular story was the U.S. rollout of Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G hybrid closed-loop system. The device, which regulates basal, or background, insulin with a glucose sensor, insulin pump and infusion patch, scored FDA approval in 2016. Medtronic saw growth dip a little in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but expects it to pick back up as it’s finished shipping the “artificial pancreas” systems in a Priority Access program.
Another “artificial pancreas” story made the top 10, namely the readout of feasibility data for Insulet’s OmniPod Horizon automated glucose control system. The device is based on Insulet’s patch pump, which delivers insulin through a disposable “pod” that sticks to a patient’s body, rather than through a catheter. And while the data is promising—the device worked as well in children as it does in adults—Insulet has faced, and continues to face, a lack of coverage from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for its pump.
The third diabetes story was the revelation that Eli Lilly had been quietly developing insulin delivery devices in a bid to keep itself afloat as biosimilar competition for its Humalog approaches.
Pivoting from diabetes, 2017 saw its fair share of drama—taking the no. 2 spot, Theranos and Walgreens settled a $140 million breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the drugstore giant nearly a year earlier. Walgreens, an early partner and validator of Theranos’ fingerstick blood tests, sought damages equal to its investment in the company.
Abbott finally agreed to merger terms with the diagnostics maker, Alere, after having spent the better part of a year trying to wriggle out of the deal. Both parties had to offload certain assets to allay antitrust concerns and Alere’s $440 million sale of its triage unit to Quidel came in at no. 9.
Taking the fourth spot was our story detailing the companies participating in the FDA’s new pilot program to fast-track digital health technology. This year, the FDA unveiled a new scheme to streamline regulatory approval for digital health apps and software, which pose a lower risk than traditional devices. If it works, it could lead to the precertification of digital health companies, and cut down on—or eliminate—the amount of paper work app makers have to submit for their software.
Our special reports profiling the top devicemakers by 2016 revenue and the fiercest 15 medtech companies to watch both made the top five, juxtaposing legacy companies whose bread and butter is traditional devices against up-and-comers who are working to transform the way we think about, manage and treat certain diseases. Some highlights: a new business model for robotic surgery, a procedureless weight-loss balloon that makes it accessible to more patients and a pair of companies seeking to upgrade the way we collect blood.
2017 also saw Boston Scientific dump its bioresorbable stent program after rival Abbott’s Absorb stents suffered a string of problems, including adverse events and study data suggesting that they did not perform better than metallic stents. And, rounding out the top 10 was the WannaCry ransomware attack, which infected two Bayer medical devices in the U.S., positioning cybersecurity as a key concern moving into 2018 and beyond.
Check out the top 10 stories below:
- Medtronic’s long-awaited ‘artificial pancreas’ makes U.S. debut
- Theranos, Walgreens call it quits on $140M lawsuit
- Special Report—The top companies in medtech by 2016 revenue
- Apple, J&J join FDA program to fast-track digital health apps
- FierceMedTech’s 2017 Fierce 15
- Lilly makes big push into devices to protect diabetes sales
- Boston Scientific scraps bioresorbable stent program after seeing safety woes hamstring Abbott’s rival product
- Insulet unveils pediatric ‘artificial pancreas’ data
- Quidel to buy up Abbott target Alere’s triage assets in $440M deal
- WannaCry ransomware infected Bayer U.S. medical devices