Brainstorm Health: Digital Diabetes Market, Sackler Opioid Patent, Probiotics Study

September 7, 2018, 8:31 PM UTC

Happy Friday, readers! This is Sy.

It seems there are few disease spaces that have—tangibly, and to date—benefited as much from digital health technologies as diabetes. As Fortune explored earlier this year in a feature on big data and biology, the advent of continuous glucose monitors hooked up to smartphone software has brought relief and a measure of certainty to patients (and their parents) who are grappling with various forms of the disease. Purely digital diabetes management companies such as Omada Health and Virta Health have produced impressive early clinical trial results (and in some cases been rewarded with the holy grail of government health program reimbursements).

Those real-world results may explain why a new Research2Guidance report projects that the digital diabetes care market will explode to $742 million by 2022, according to MobiHealthNews. In 2017, the field brought in nearly $100 million in revenues, say the report authors, or a tripling of the previous year’s sales.

Digital diabetes care programs usually involve a combination of connected devices—such as scales and glucose monitors—that can communicate with standard smartphone apps while also connecting patients to both their doctors and wider support communities.

And unlike some digital health applications that are fueled by hope and hype rather than definitive proof, several of these methods seem to actually work in both preventing pre-diabetic patients from developing the full-blow disease and even reversing diabetes without invasive medical interventions. That likely explains why insurers are slowly taking chances on funding such techniques—and why the market is expected to grow so rapidly in the coming years.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.


Drugs to fight aging. Forbes' Matt Herper is out with a great read on the tricky quest of developing anti-aging drugs (it's literally called "Of Vampires And The Challenges Of Longevity Drugs," so good luck not clicking on that). The piece begins with a discussion of the fascinating preliminary science showing that injecting younger mice's DNA into older ones makes them appear to be physically younger—and then delves into the tantalizing (and controversial) possibility of whether or not such findings can really form the basis of human-centric drug development. (Forbes)


A member of the OxyContin billionaire family has a patent to treat opioid addiction. The Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, perhaps better known as the privately-held firm that manufactures the controversial, powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin. Now, reports have emerged that one of its members, Richard Sackler, secured a patent earlier this year for a type of therapy meant to treat the very kind of opioid dependence that Purdue has been accused of fostering through its aggressive marketing techniques. The medication in question is a novel formulation of buprenorphine, which is used as an alternative to drugs like methadone to wean addiction patients off of opioids. (Financial Times)


Do probiotics actually work? Public health studies appear to constantly contradict each other. Apparently, probiotics are no exception. Preliminary research published in the journal Cell pushes back on the notion that ingesting "good" bacteria has a long-term effect on gut health. Scientists found that while the good bacteria were present in the stool of people who took probiotics, they didn't actually stick to and grow in their intestines (it's important to note the studies had small sample sizes). (ABC News)

An American sickness. In case you missed it: Kaiser Health News editor-in-chief Elisabeth Rosenthal, the author of An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, has an important piece up on Fortune about the necessity—or lack thereof—of chemotherapy in some breast cancer patients. It's well worth your read(Fortune)


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