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Brainstorm Health: Virta Health Diabetes Program, J&J Talc Suit, Precision Medicine

Hello and happy hump day, readers!

Digital diabetes platforms have been among the biggest beneficiaries—and practical success stories—of the digital health revolution, as we’ve covered on a number of occasions. Now, one of the major players in the space, Virta Health, is really putting its money where its mouth is, tying financial reimbursements directly to whether or not its all-digital diabetes prevention and reversal system actually works.

“Under Virta Health’s new payment structure, employers and health plans pay an enrollment fee only after an engagement milestone is met, ensuring patients stay active during the critical early stages of treatment. After that, every dollar, and the majority of overall payment, is at risk and tied to health improvement based on diabetes reversal metrics such as HbA1c reduction—without per-member per-month payment or implementation fees,” said the company in a statement.

Virta’s system involves a series of connected biometric data-collection devices that funnel data to medical experts who can provide advice on diet and lifestyle choices to customers in real time. That’s not a rare strategy in this particular space; but what makes it impressive, Virta CEO Sami Inkinen tells Fortune in a phone interview, is that this purely digital approach (which doesn’t involve surgery or medication) has shown the ability to actually reverse type 2 diabetes. And that’s what gives the company the confidence to pursue this “value-based” strategy.

“What has changed for us is two things,” says Inkinen. “We’ve now replicated our clinical trial results across different populations across the country and shown that we can reverse type 2 diabetes in multiple populations. And, two, while traditional diabetes management increases costs, we’ve now been able to show we can do better while eliminating the need for medication.” That is, Virta believes that fee-for-value will effectively set it apart from fee-for-service.

While Virta’s current service mostly focuses on employer health plans, the company would like to expand further into publicly financed programs.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Moving precision medicine beyond cancer. Guest authors Kathy Giusti and Richard Hamermesh of the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator have a piece up on Fortune today on the how we might be able to nudge the project of precision medicine, which appears to focus lengthily on cancer drug development at this point, into other areas. And much of the effort will depend on better utilization of data. “Today, vast amounts of data exist, however most of the time that data is siloed, fractured, and rarely in a standardized format. Data needs to be clean and harmonized in order to make sense of it. That means building large, digestible clinical datasets that are connected to equally large molecular datasets, then following them over time. It also means applying machine learning to help physicians make better decisions about patient diagnoses and treatment options, while understanding the possible outcomes for each treatment path,” they write.  (Fortune)

INDICATIONS

J&J gets a win in talc cancer suit. A California jury has delivered Johnson & Johnson a victory in its ongoing talc powder-cancer lawsuits. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that J&J’s common talc powder products contained asbestos which caused a cancer called mesothelioma; thousands of other lawsuits allege connections between the J&J products and ovarian cancer. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

America’s overdoses. A new study finds that the U.S. has twice the premature overdose death rate of a dozen other comparably wealthy nations. And it’s a problem that affects men disproportionately. “Men’s overdose deaths typically occur at double the rate of women in a particular population. In comparison with the U.S., the next highest rate was found in Estonia, where drug overdoses accounted for 20 deaths per 100,000 men,” writes by colleague Brittany Shoot. (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

Autodesk CEO: The Fast-Growing Tech Industry Needs ‘Rational Oversight’by Andrew Nusca

Theresa May Announces ‘Collective’ Deal on Brexit With Her Cabinetby Bloomberg

Levi Strauss Is Reportedly Planning a $5 Billion IPOby Laura Stampler

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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