After nearly two decades, the Johnson & Johnson-owned Animas brand of insulin pumps is shutting down.
In the early morning hours on Thursday (Oct. 5), J&J issued a press release that finalized nine months of speculation on the future of its diabetes insulin pump division. Effective immediately, no more Animas pumps will be sold in the USA or Canada, and it's TBD what will happen to the brand internationally.
Pharma giant J&J has been "strategically evaluating" its three diabetes divisions since January, deciding whether to prop them up financially, sell them off, or shut them down. While many have speculated that an end was near for Animas and possibly even J&J's OneTouch and Lifescan meter brands, nothing has been official until now. The meter brands remain under evaluation, but its pump business is done and J&J has signed an agreement with competitor and market leader Medtronic to take over servicing existing Animas customers.
On the heels of Roche also shutting its insulin pump business in January, what this Animas announcement means is that for the first time since 2002, we PWDs (people with diabetes) in the U.S. will have just three choices of pumps: Medtronic Minimed, Insulet's Omnipod and the Tandem t:slim. Total bummer, given that Animas has been a staple in the industry for 17 years and was well-liked for its waterproof design and Animas Vibe system paired with the Dexcom CGM.
Animas Shutdown: Nuts and Bolts
Here are answers to some of the biggest questions:
- How Many? This affects 90,000 existing Animas pump customers, according to the J&J news release (although other sources quote 120,000). We asked how many employees are impacted, but the company declined to release specifics except to generally say, "We will continue to operate certain functions of the business – including manufacturing, customer and safety support, as examples – for an indeterminate amount of time as we help our patients transition. Accordingly, we will provide support to impacted employees and their families through the transition."
- Global Impact? In its news release, J&J says, "A decision and timing to exit countries outside of the U.S. and Canada is subject to completing consultation with relevant works councils. For the patients, caregivers and healthcare providers outside of the U.S. and Canada who currently use Animas pumps and products, Animas will continue to sell pumps and operate as usual." Hmm, we shall see...
- Why? In the news release, Animas General Manager Valerie Asbury offered this prepared statement: “With changing needs of
customers, rapidly evolving market dynamics, and increased competitive
pressures, it proved too difficult to sustain the insulin pump business
and we decided to pursue an exit of the business. This decision was
extremely difficult and comes following the extensive exploration of all
other viable options for the Animas business.”
- Existing Customers? J&J says it will continue to "service all patients and honor patient warranties" for existing pump customers, and they will be referred to Medtronic Diabetes to get supplies. After Sept. 30, 2019, Medtronic will no longer provide Animas supplies to those who continue using that brand of insulin pump. Of course, customers may also find some third-party distributors selling legacy supplies. Get more information on MedT's "Welcome, Animas customers" site, or by calling 800-661-1730 in the U.S. and Canada. Of course, remember Animas-pumping folks: Take a breath and relax -- there's time to decide your next move.
- Switching to Medtronic: Starting in May 2018, in-warranty Animas customers will be able to get a Minimed 630G (the automatic insulin-suspending, pump-CGM device with a vertical orientation) at no cost.
- Dexcom CGM'ers: Animas Vibe pumpers who currently use Dexcom products should continue to use the CGM and will receive the same service they have been, according to a company spokeswoman.
- Not an Acquisition: To be clear, Medtronic does NOT own Animas now. Rather, Animas is being shut down and Animas customers are being referred to MedT, in much the same way that Roche Accu-Chek pump customers were handed off to Medtronic after that company stopped selling pumps in the U.S. at the beginning of the year.
- No More OneTouch Vibe Plus: Given that, any intellectual property remains with J&J, meaning plans are presumably scrapped for the OneTouch Vibe Plus system that would communicate with the Dexcom G5 and was FDA-approved in early 2016. It's also unclear what impact this could have on the OneTouch Via bolus-only patch pump, purchased from Calibra Medical years ago and just approved by the FDA in June 2017. Also, there appears to be nothing announced at the moment as to future next-gen closed loop devices that Animas had been working on. It's TBD on whether any of that gets sold off, or shelved forever.
- Not Impacting OneTouch or Lifescan: As of now, J&J says its popular meter and strip brands OneTouch and Lifescan are still being evaluated and no decision has yet been made as to their future.
Clearly, Medtronic is the big winner here -- though some may wonder whether the pump-CGM giant is moving toward monopoly status, and whether it can even handle the influx of new customers, given the reported manufacturing and shipping delays it's been experiencing on the CGM sensor front.
While customers are not forced to switch to Medtronic, the only remaining alternatives are Tandem Diabetes Care, which is experiencing its own business struggles, and Insulet's tubeless OmniPod.
Both are naturally making a play to recruit Animas users into their customer ranks:
Insulet's OmniPod Offer
Within hours of the announcement, Omnipod makers Insulet Corp. shot out a marketing email inviting current Animas users to switch, that read: "With the unfortunate announcement related to Animas, Insulet has developed a program dedicated to those impacted by this decision. At Insulet, we believe people with diabetes should have the freedom to select the insulin delivery system which best meets their needs. We are currently working on a landing page/social media posts and will share later today."
- No upfront cost
- Free Personalized Diabetes Manger (PDM)
- 10 free pods
- Eligiblity depends on insurance and specific states (MI, MA, MN and RI) are excluded
- Available through Dec. 31, 2017
- More information is available at 1-888-6-GETPOD
- On Oct. 18, an offer also included a $200 gift card for completing a Dexcom patient survey about upgrading to the Dexcom G5 Mobile (for those not already using this CGM system).
Tandem's t:slim Program
Tandem's update came out shortly after, stating: "Tandem is now the only company currently offering an insulin pump that integrates with the Dexcom G5 Mobile CGM, approved for making treatment decisions without fingersticks (only two fingerstick CGM calibrations required per day)... We welcome the opportunity to help any current Animas customers continue enjoying the benefits of an insulin pump with Dexcom sensor integration when they are ready for a new pump. We know change can be stressful, particularly when it is unexpected, and we are here to help in whatever way we are able."
Their new "Touch Simplicity Today Pump Access Program" offers:
- A new Tandem pump for use within the final 12 months of current warranty on Animas or Roche pump; not for out-of-warranty pumps
- One-time payment of $999
- Payment plans are not available, but this amount can be credited to the purchase of a new Tandem pump and/or supplies at the end of their current pump warranty period or may be refunded
- Offer available for "a limited time"; end date not specified
- More details can be found online here
Outside of North America, other pump options do exist, including Dana RS pumps out of Korea and the Cellnovo patch pump in Europe. Those should certainly be on the mind of PWDs living in other countries -- in light of the "writing on the wall" that Animas may not be around internationally for much longer, either.
Shrinking Choice in Insulin Pump Market
Animas formed in Pennsylvania in 1996 and fours year later entered the U.S. insulin pump market with first-generation product, the IR 2000. Their IR 1250 version followed a few years later, and then in February 2006, J&J acquired Animas into its family of companies. The Animas-OneTouch Ping paired with a fingerstick meter launched in 2008 and then the Animas Vibe CGM combo followed in 2014. As noted, the next-gen OneTouch Vibe Plus snagged regulatory approval in Dec. 2016, but it never launched.
And now, this.
Even the J&J press release may be tough to stomach for many, with language plugging Medtronic as a "world leader" in diabetes devices -- somewhat ironic given that Animas and Medtronic were rivals for so long. We've also seen some conjecture on whether this Animas closure is "Medtronic's fault" due to aggressive marketing or if moves like the exclusive agreement Medtronic signed with United Healthcare in 2016 played a part in this. While those may have been factors, they can't be fully blamed. Experts point out that J&J and Animas leadership and new innovation track record -- or lack thereof, more accurately -- set the stage for this over the course of many years.
It's amazing to think that just a few short years ago, we had SIX different insulin pumps on the market here in the States, and now that number's been sliced in half. We haven't seen this few pump choices since before 2003, when the only pumps were made by Minimed (bought by Medtronic in 2001), Disetronic (bought by Roche in 2003) and Animas (bought by J&J in 2006). Medtronic now becomes the sole remaining legacy pump company.
We also lost new player Asante Solutions in 2015, when it discontinued the Snap pump, and the Deltec Cozmo pump that disappeared in 2009 when Smith’s Medical suspended and eventually discontinued it. And in early 2017, Roche Diabetes Care also discontinued its Accu-Chek pumps in the U.S., and then seven months later announced it would hand remaining customers over to Medtronic. (Accu-Chek pumps remain on the market internationally).
What a shame, how the market changes. Of course, for those using Animas now, it's important to remember: There are still those using Snap and Cozmo pumps years after they closed, so take a breath and think carefully about the next move. There is time, even if this sudden news may seem overwhelming right now.
In response to this news, JDRF CEO Derek Rapp expressed the organization's disappointment and urged the industry to embrace the mantra of #DiabetesAccessMatters, allowing PWDs to have choice that goes beyond aesthetics. "
"JDRF is extremely concerned that Animas Corporation will be closing operations and ending the sale of its insulin pumps, as it means fewer treatment options for people with type 1 diabetes," he said. "Pump choice is critical, and people with type 1 diabetes need the ability to choose the devices that work best for them. Innovation and competition are essential to the development of next-generation therapies."
In fact, JDRF has developed a whole campaign to lobby insurance companies against making exclusive agreements that lock patients into using devices that may not be the best therapy choices for them individually. See also this brilliant article by CDE and author Gary Scheiner on how not all insulin pumps are created the same, and how different features can have a profound impact on a person's ability to manage blood sugars successfully.
On the CGM side, the Animas shutdown is also clearly not good news for Dexcom, as Animas was a key partner -- integrating their G4 CGM for the first-generation Vibe pump, and the G5 with the Vibe Plus approved more than a year ago. Unfortunately, Dexcom now loses a lot of potential customers, given that switching to a Medtronic likely means users will opt for that company's CGM as well.
What an incredibly sad time in the state of diabetes device choice.
This stands as yet another reminder of the reality that we as patients often find tough to swallow: That diabetes is a business, and that if a for-profit company can't make the bottom line work, it's not worth it for them to keep making their products, no matter how important they might be to some people's health.