Medtronic weighs in on GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) impact for device manufacturers

Medtronic is the latest — and largest — device manufacturer to weigh in on GLP-1 weight loss drugs and how they could affect demand for medical devices.  Medtronic Chair and CEO Geoff Martha said the world’s largest medical device company does not expect GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy to take a big bite out of its business.  While Medtronic said the drugs have had a “modest impact” on the bariatric surgery market, Medtronic thinks that is only temporary.  The rate of decline in Medtronic’s bariatric business has already stabilized, Martha said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call.  “I think we see that coming back in the coming year (in 2024).  We feel strongly that we don’t see these drugs impacting Medtronic’s growth, medium or long term,” Martha said.

That is based on “extensive, science-based work” at Medtronic that “modeled potential uptake and impact based on epidemiology, based on what we’ve seen historically with other drugs, and based on the relative risk reductions and adherence rates seen in SELECT,” Martha said.

SELECT is the trial for Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide GLP drug.  That drug is primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes patients; however, it also has FDA approval for weight loss in obese patients.  SELECT trial results shared at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2023 in November showed a reduction in major cardiovascular disease risk in certain patients taking semaglutide.  However, that trial data also showed a smaller impact for more obese patients, Martha said.  Medtronic leaders also said they think that the trial’s failure to show that the drug reduces cardiovascular deaths will hurt its adoption and chances of payment coverage.  “We believe that bariatric surgery will remain the gold standard for addressing obesity,” Martha said.  “We also know that many patients that try these drugs do not stay on them for more than a year, likely due to durability, side effects, or affordability, which creates opportunities for new patients to consider surgery.”

Given that, Medtronic believes “current headwinds on U.S. bariatric procedures will stabilize over the next several quarters, and return to growth by calendar year 2025,” Martha said.  “And this is modest and manageable within our broader diversified surgical business.”

On the diabetes front, more than 90% of Medtronic’s diabetes patients have type 1 diabetes, leaving less than 10% with type 2 diabetes.  “We do expect growth in our type 2 business going forward, but type 2 pump penetration rates are so low that even using aggressive GLP-1 modeling assumptions, we don’t see any meaningful change in our diabetes growth outlook through 2030,” Martha said.

Device makers view GLP-1s with optimism

In September 2023, Abbott cited real-world data in arguing that the rise of GLP-1 drugs could accelerate usage of its FreeStyle Libre CGM product family.

Intuitive Surgical is another device manufacturer keeping an eye on GLP-1 drugs and bariatric surgery demand.  The surgical robotics developer said in October 2023 that despite slowing patient interest in weight loss procedures as they consider the pharmaceutical alternative, the cost and side effects of the drug might end up increasing demand for the surgeries — especially if patients gain their weight back after going off the medication.

In early November 2023, Stryker executives — the world’s largest orthopedic device manufacturer — said they don’t expect GLP-1 drugs to hurt its business.  Rather, they said the drugs could boost joint replacement procedure volume by helping obese patients slim down to qualify for surgery.

REFERENCE:  Medical Design and Outsourcing; 21 NOV 2023; Jim Hammerand