Get smart? Novo Nordisk to roll connected insulin pens in deal with trio of tech partners

Novo Nordisk insulin pens are getting smarter. Looking for an edge in the hotly competitive diabetes market, where its rivals are also pushing tech as part of the treatment solution, Novo will debut its first connected pens next year, able to sync dosing data with digital platforms under new deals with partners Dexcom, Glooko and Roche.

The pen data can be integrated with additional patient information from continuous glucose monitoring systems and blood glucose meters, and then delivered to patients on their digital diabetes management systems. Those include Glooko’s mobile app and Roche’s mySugr and Accu-Check Smart Pix. Novo’s dosing data will be integrated with Dexcom’s CGM data “in the coming years,” according to the news release.

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Novo competitor Eli Lilly announced similar plans last year for a connected insulin pen as part of its Connected Diabetes Ecosystem, and included an integrated data partnership with Dexcom as well. Lilly did not disclose a specific time frame for that launch.

Novo said its first connected pens, NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus, will debut in the first quarter of 2019 with plans to roll out to more than 50 countries in the coming years, eventually replacing the current NovoPen 5 and Echo pens where those are available.

"Our non-exclusive partnership strategy allows us to integrate with the various digital platforms that people are already using to help manage their diabetes," said Camilla Sylvest, Novo Nordisk executive vice president of commercial strategy and corporate affairs, adding that the company believes the move will “begin to ease the mental burden of diabetes treatment for those individuals."

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The smart pens build on a trial last year with Glooko, which combined Novo Nordisk’s content and resources from its existing Cornerstones4Care online program and Glooko’s technology to sync blood glucose and activity data from almost any available diabetes or exercise device.

Novo and Lilly, along with fellow diabetes giant Sanofi, are locked in a fierce competition in diabetes treatments advances and a veritable next-generation drug slugfest. Payer pressure has forced serious discounting, and to sell their newer drugs—particularly insulins—the companies need to find a competitive edge. Digital solutions and lifestyle management tools such as the integrated connected pens can be differentiators and potential market advantages.