As Covid testing business drops, Abbott searches for new line of business with consumer wearables

Abbott Laboratories, a renowned healthcare company, is making waves in the consumer wearables market with its expansion into new territories. At the recent HLTH conference in Las Vegas, Abbott’s CEO, Robert Ford, took the stage to discuss the company’s foray into this exciting field. While Abbott has been a leader in medical devices and diagnostic tools, it recognizes the potential of consumer wearables to revolutionize healthcare.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented Abbott with an opportunity to showcase its expertise in medical testing. Its 15-minute rapid COVID test became a game-changer, generating an astonishing $7.7 billion in sales in 2021 and $8.4 billion in 2022. However, as the pandemic subsides, testing rates have naturally declined. During the second quarter of this year, Abbott reported $263 million in COVID test sales, a significant decrease compared to the $2.3 billion reported during the same period last year.

Anticipating this decline, Abbott’s CEO, Robert Ford, emphasized the importance of investing in research and development for other offerings, such as their medical devices. One standout product is the FreeStyle Libre, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) designed to help patients manage their diabetes. This small, circular sensor, applied to the upper arm, eliminates the need for regular finger pricks. The latest model, the FreeStyle Libre 3, can provide real-time glucose level measurements for up to 14 days.

Margaret Kaczor Andrew, a partner and research analyst at William Blair, highlighted Abbott’s dominance in the global CGM market, with approximately two-thirds market share. During the second quarter, FreeStyle Libre alone generated over $1.3 billion in sales. Interestingly, the device has attracted not only patients with diabetes but also individuals without the disease who are interested in understanding how their bodies react to food and daily activities.

This unexpected interest from a broader demographic prompted Abbott to explore the potential of wearables beyond diabetes management. Ford expressed his belief in expanding the platform developed for diabetes to cater to a much larger population of healthy individuals. Abbott’s latest wearable sensor, Lingo, was introduced in the U.K. earlier this year, with plans for a U.S. release in 2023. Lingo tracks glucose levels and pairs with an app that offers personalized coaching algorithms for diet, sleep, and exercise, empowering average consumers to make healthier decisions.

Simplifying complex data and ensuring accessibility for all consumers is a challenge for a company deeply rooted in the healthcare industry. Ford acknowledged the need to adapt messaging to resonate with a wider audience, including those who may not have a medical background. Abbott aims to leverage the latest technology without intimidating users or making them feel overwhelmed.

Ford’s experience in launching Abbott’s first CGM, the FreeStyle Navigator, in 2008 taught him valuable lessons about consumer communication. The initial device was expensive, bulky, and difficult for patients to use, leading to its discontinuation. This setback compelled Ford to improve his approach and better understand consumer needs, which now informs Abbott’s strategy moving forward.

Ford recognizes the ongoing revolution at the intersection of healthcare and technology, with advancements in AI, connectivity, and hardware devices like phones, tablets, and wearables. Abbott is fully aware of this technological moment and is poised to leverage it to benefit consumers. The company is planning to submit its Lingo filing to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of this year, showcasing its commitment to bringing innovative and user-friendly solutions to market.

As Abbott Laboratories expands into the consumer wearables market, it continues to demonstrate its leadership in healthcare innovation. With a strong foundation in medical devices and diagnostic tools, Abbott is well-positioned to make a positive impact on the lives of both patients and healthy individuals. By combining cutting-edge technology with a focus on simplicity and accessibility, Abbott is poised to empower individuals to take control of their health and make informed decisions.

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