One of the dominating news themes in our Diabetes Community for 2014 has been a shift in leadership at some of the leading D-device companies and non-profit orgs, with some prominent transitions from the old guard to new faces at the helm.
A wave of "out with the old, in with the new," if you will...
The two biggest national diabetes orgs saw leadership changes, as JDRF quite unexpectedly said goodbye to popular CEO Jeffrey Brewer and replaced him with Derek Rapp; while the American Diabetes Association parted ways with Larry Hausner over the summer and is still searching for a new leader, while interim CEO Dr. Suzanne Berry holds down the fort until a permanent CEO is found.
On the industry side at California CGM-maker Dexcom, longtime CEO Terry Gregg is leaving that role this month and making way for Kevin Sayer, who's been serving as chief operating officer for about three years and has been with the company since 2007. This transition has been in the works for years, and we plan to publish an exclusive Q&A with the outgoing and incoming CEOs in the next week or so. We're excited to talk with them both, so stay tuned for that soon!
For now, it's worth looking at two other D-companies that have been embroiled in leader-switches in recent months that came quickly and have raised eyebrows about what's happening beyond the scenes at each: Insulet and Sanofi.
On their own, each of these CEO changes may not amount to much more than fodder for talk around the industry water cooler. But taken together they may have bigger implications about the changing world of insurance reimbursement and how devices and meds for diabetes are being created.
Insulet Looks Outside 'The Company Pod'
In September, the OmniPod manufacturer Insulet brought in a new CEO to replace longtime leader Duane DeSisto, who's been with the company since its infancy, before the patch pump was even fully developed.
Remember, this Massachusetts company was founded in 2000 -- five years before the OmniPod hit the market as the first-ever patch pump. Since then, we've seen a second generation Pod (in 2012) and the company's now moving forward with its next-gen revised Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM) and ultimately a vision for a combo device that would allow the insulin pump and CGM to function from a single infusion set.
DeSisto joined Insulet in 2001, serving as chief financial officer and acting CEO before officially taking on the top exec role in 2003.
But in September, Insulet announced his replacement by new CEO Patrick Sullivan. Within a few months, Sullivan made two key changes in his top leadership: CFO Brian Roberts stepped down immediately and the company brought in a new face, Allison Dorval, to fill that position; and Insulet created a new position, Executive VP of Human Resources and Organizational Development, that will be filled by Brad Thomas, who'll be responsible for "implementing strategies that directly improve (Profit & Loss) performance and create a long-term competitive advantage designed to position the company for continued growth."
Some industry insiders speculate this may mean Insulet is seriously prepping for an acquisition, i.e. getting its house in order to look more appealing to potential buyers. The implications of this could be a bigger push to market its in-development U-500 insulin pump more broadly to the ever-growing type 2 population, and/or stepping up efforts to create Pods for use with other medication-infusions for other conditions.
We've been trying since early November to get some official word about all this from Insulet, but haven't been able to connect with either DeSisto or Sullivan to find out more.
As patients what we're most anxious to hear about is the redesigned Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM), coming soon, and their data integration plans since signing on to work with Tidepool and the cloud-based data platform they're developing.
Sanofi's CEO 'Soap Opera'
A much more dramatic shift is underway over at French Pharma giant Sanofi. You may have noticed the company making headlines regularly since ousting Christopher Viehbacher over alleged financial mismanagement; he'd been CEO since 2008 and is often credited with putting Sanofi's R&D back on track, so there are some who called the move a huge mistake.
Board Chairman Serge Weinberg has stepped up as interim CEO.
Mainstream media and industry watchers tripped over each other covering that story, adding to the drama and elevating the whole situation to soap opera status -- including a piece in the German press in November in which Weinberg apparently blamed much of the Lantus profit fails on the sales force here in the States. Ouch! We've been amused by the snarky reports on this by David Kliff of Diabetic Investor, who always loves a good scandal.
And it just keeps getting juicer, especially in early December when a lawsuit accused Sanofi and now-ousted CEO Viehbacher of an illegal kickback scheme (the company supposedly paid doctors and promote, prescribe and sell its diabetes drugs). Yikes!
While some of this just interesting office politics to talk about, you can't ignore the fact that this change comes just as Sanofi is battling to stay ahead in heated Insulin Wars with Pharma rivals Lilly and Novo. Those three are all trying to figure out the next insulin blockbuster to replace Lantus, Humalog and Novolog as those patents expire, and that all trickles down to us PWDs and the prices we pay.
Part of the controversy relates to inhaled insulin Afrezza, which finally got FDA approval earlier in 2014, and will be marketed by Sanofi. Was this a bad decision by Sanofi, setting itself up for a blockbuster failure like Pfizer's 2007 Exubera fiasco? Many have been asking whether the decision-making behind Afrezza had anything to do with Viehbacher's firing.
A lot of eyes are on Sanofi these days as the company preps to launch Afrezza in 2015, and it's still debatable what Sanofi will do on the diabetes device side after it failed to make much of the iBGStar meter, that's now fallen off most radars. Not to mention how Sanofi is also trying to beat out competitors in the race to develop and market new diabetes drugs like GLP-1s and SGLT-2 inhibitors.
The drug and device race is on, and who's leading Sanofi will dictate a lot of what we PWDs see in the coming years, in terms of how products will be developed, marketed, and ultimately reimbursed.
What Does It Mean for Us PWDs?
All of this is, of course, the most business-y side of the business of diabetes.
But do these changes really make much of a difference for us in living with this illness in the trenches? Probably not, in our day-to-day existence. But then again, future acquisitions or mergers that may be in the works could bring noticeable change for us in our choice of products and access to them.
Meanwhile, what if consumer electronics companies including Samsung, Apple, and Google or even a player like GE decided to gobble up Insulet or Sanofi's diabetes device efforts? Or one of the big glucose monitor players like Bayer, Roche or JnJ that have all talked about potentially selling their diabetes divisions? It's an interesting conversation, and one that may very well be rocking our world soon.
Conventional wisdom says "the only constant is change," and the CEO shifts we've been seeing could very well be a small ripple leading way to much bigger waves in the coming years.