Diabetes management and outlook for technology development

The diabetes market  includes both pharmaceuticals and medical devices is large and growing steadily for four main reasons. First, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing, particularly that of type 2 in developed countries and those with increasing prosperity. Type 1 diabetes is also increasing, though less dramatically. Second, type 2 diabetes is responsive to drug therapy, and there is a continuing search for newer, better pharmacological agents. Third, insulin, required for all cases of type 1 and some of type 2 diabetes, poses administration problems, offering opportunities for new delivery systems. Fourth, patients with diabetes must monitor their condition by frequently checking the level of glucose in their blood, and there are ongoing attempts to make this process easier and more user-friendly by developing more advanced (and expensive) devices.

A fifth driving factor in the diabetes marketplace is the search for a fundamentally better way to manage the disease. Some options are mainly surgical—transplants of pancreatic cells, for example. Another focus for research is to combine glucose monitoring with insulin administration in a self-controlled wearable device. And farther in the future are prospects for using stem cells to grow new beta cells, and for using genetic knockout techniques to block the metabolic processes that cause diabetes.

A Many-Sided Market

The diabetes market includes both pharmaceutical and medical device elements. The pharmaceutical aspect is again divided between insulin and oral antidiabetic drugs. The medical device aspect is made up of instruments for diagnosis and monitoring with their attendant consumables, and a range of devices for administering insulin. Some of these devices contain prepackaged insulin, so that they may be regarded as both medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Market Growth

In some respects, the diabetes market is reaching a state of satisfaction. Glucose meters have reached a level of sophistication which satisfies most market needs, and the same is true of insulin pumps. The main remaining product innovation opportunities in the devices sector are the development of truly noninvasive glucose metering instruments, and the development of an automatic closed-loop system linking glucose metering with insulin administration: the “artificial pancreas.” This latter development will eventually drive significant, perhaps dramatic, growth in the devices sector but this is not likely to happen in less than 3–5 years.


In the pharmaceutical sector, a number of insulin analogs are now available which go far to satisfy the market’s needs. New classes of oral antidiabetic drugs continue to be developed but several of the older classes are still widely used.

Until the goal of managing diabetes more thoroughly and holistically by tackling the underlying genetic and immunological causal mechanisms, growth in this market is likely to be driven mainly by the increasing prevalence of both main types of diabetes, especially in the developed world, with incremental growth resulting from the introduction of improved versions of current drugs and devices. (MedMarket Diligence’s report #D510 estimates an annual growth rate around 12% in the diabetes market over the next eight years. Major technological and/or scientific breakthroughs could, of course, make it necessary to revise this forecast.)

See “Diabetes Management: Products, Technologies, Markets and Opportunities Worldwide 2009-2018”, Report #D510 (published July 2010).

Leave a Reply