Lilly, Livongo team up for real-world diabetes research, aiming for better results in an outcomes-oriented market

Livongo and Eli Lilly are partnering on diabetes research for real-world insights to improve the lives of people with diabetes. (Livongo)

There's a new tech partnership in diabetes, this time between Eli Lilly and Livongo. And it's looking to tap real-world data to deliver better results for patients with Type 1 and Type 2 versions of the disease.

The partners aim to help patients adopt healthier habits and save money, improving outcomes that are not only that are significant clinically but important to patients themselves. Lilly is tackling those goals with the belief that real-world insights are critical in the move to outcome-based health.

Livongo is a digital health tech startup working on solutions for people with chronic conditions. Launched in 2014 with a focus on diabetes, it now offers a cloud-based, Livongo-branded glucose meter and adjunct digital support program. Livongo CEO Glenn Tullman, whose son has Type 1 diabetes, was previously the chief executive at Allscripts.

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About 30 million Americans and 425 million adults worldwide have diabetes, Dr. Sherry Martin, Lilly Diabetes’ vice president of medical affairs, said via an email interview, and it's well established that the long-term costs of managing diabetes are unsustainable.

"Diabetes management creates a burden on the physician community, a challenge for patients to keep up with the daily requirements, and ultimately high costs for payers and employers due to suboptimal outcomes,” Martin said. “Our belief is that many of these burdens can be reduced by harnessing the power of real world evidence and insights—improving patient engagement, allowing physicians to focus on the most important clinical decisions and ultimately improving outcomes for patients.”

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By 2020, the majority of government and commercial pay agreements will be based on outcomes, Martin predicted, making the kinds of insights Lilly and Livongo are working toward even more important. Martin said Lilly expects their partnered projects to be completed in late 2018 and early 2019 and will release results when the studies are published.

The partnership comes as Lilly continues to count on its diabetes franchise for growth. The company recently told investors that the its 2018 sales increases would be driven by its newest diabetes drugs Trulicity, Basaglar and Jardiance.

Lilly’s effort with Livongo matches similar types of tech efforts by other diabetes drug makers, including Novo Nordisk and Merck KgAA, to help patients live healthier. Novo's deal with Glooko includes an app that allows patients to measure and track blood glucose, activities and meals, while Merck's deal with Blue Mesa Health is building solutions for people with prediabetes.

Sanofi is also investigating the space, having partnered with Verily in 2016 to create Onduo, a joint venture to develop solutions for people with Type 2 diabetes. The duo plans to expand to Type 1 patients and to people at risk for developing the disease.

Meanwhile, Merck is working with Amazon Web Services' voice assistant Alexa and Luminary Labs to explore a range of home voice-enabled assistance for diabetes patients.