Miles D. White, Chairman and CEO
Thomas C. Freyman, Exec. VP, Finance and Administration
Brian J. Blaser, Exec. VP, Diagnostics Products
Robert B. Ford, Exec. VP, Medical Devices
Jaime Contreras, Sr. VP, Core Laboratory Diagnostics, Commercial Operations
Thomas G. Frinzi, Sr. VP, Medical Optics
Corlis D. Murray, Sr. VP, Quality Assurance, Regulatory, and Engineering Services
Deepak S. Nath, Ph.D., Sr. VP, Abbott Vascular
Jared L. Watkin, Sr. VP, Diabetes Care
Sharon J. Bracken, VP, Point of Care Diagnostics
Dennis A. Gilbert, Ph.D., VP, R&D, Diagnostics
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 74,000
GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS: Abbott Park, Ill.
About 108 million blood donations are collected each year. That sounds like a fairly significant number, right? Prepare to be humbled; about 234 million major operations requiring blood transfusions or treatments occur annually, meaning there’s a continuous need for donations. Unfortunately, many people don’t consider the need until it becomes critical.
“We can all make a difference by donating blood. Each donation can benefit up to three people in emergency situations and for long-term medical treatments,” said Cristiano Ronaldo, forward for Real Madrid and captain for Portugal National Football. “That’s why I am enthusiastic to be partnering with Abbott to bring awareness to the importance of blood donation and to encourage people around the world to become lifelong blood donors and help save lives.” Since giving to a teammate’s sickly son, the soccer star donates blood regularly, and goes so far as to avoid any activities that would prevent him from donating—even if only temporarily.
Why bring this up? In October 2015, Ronaldo partnered with Abbott to raise public awareness of this important cause, as the first global ambassador for the BE THE 1 movement (also known as #BeThe1Donor). While it’s true that Abbott has a financial stake in a campaign like this—according to the company, over half of the world’s blood supply is screened with Abbott testing instruments—its Global Surveillance Program works to safeguard the world’s blood supply. The company’s screening process continually identifies new viruses and diseases, including newly emerging HIV and Hepatitis B and C strains.
Abbott’s business is split into four segments: Pharmaceuticals, Nutritionals, Diagnostics, and Vascular. As a whole, the company reported net sales of $20.4 billion in 2015 (year ended Dec. 31), representing a less than 1 percent increase over 2014. Abbott’s medical device businesses are divided into four segments: Diagnostics, Vascular, Diabetes Care, and Medical Optics. The latter two make up less than 10 percent of the company’s revenues or assets, and are therefore deemed non-reportable. Abbott’s medical device segment achieved revenue of $9.71 billion in 2015. Despite the slight increase in overall net sales, due primarily to a significant 19.3 percent increase in revenue in the company’s Established Pharmaceuticals division, this demonstrated a 4.6 percent deficit from 2014.
Abbott’s Diagnostics segment, including its Core Laboratories Diagnostics, Molecular Diagnostics, Point of Care, and Ibis diagnostic divisions, brought in $4.6 billion in revenue, a 1.6 percent decrease over the previous year. The Vascular Products division, which includes the company’s Vascular and Electrophysiology products, reported net sales of $2.8 billion, a 6.5 percent decrease from 2014. Abbott’s Diabetes Care and Medical Optics divisions reported revenue of $2.3 billion (bringing in about $1.1 billion apiece), which represented a 7.9 percent deficit from the previous year.
In 2015, Abbott’s domestic revenue of $6.3 billion accounted for 30.7 percent of the company’s total sales, a slight increase over 2014. U.S. sales in general rose 2 percent over the previous year. Continuing the trend from 2013 and 2014, the Chinese market continued to demonstrate Abbott’s largest market growth opportunity.
Chinese net sales of $1.8 billion represented 8.8 percent of the company’s total revenue—a fairly significant increase over 2014’s 6.5 percent of total sales. The Chinese market’s revenue as a whole displayed a whopping 35.9 percent increase over 2014, topping the (no less) significant increase of 22 percent experienced in 2014 over the year prior. Conversely, global sales in Japan continues to show a deficit that has not ceased since 2013. Japan’s $895 million revenue represented a 7.5 percent decrease from 2014, a slightly bigger loss than the year prior’s 7 percent deficit. Across other global markets of note in 2015, Switzerland saw 10.9 percent growth from the previous year, the Netherlands saw 8.5 percent, and India saw 4.4 percent. Brazilian revenue displayed the most marked decline in 2015, shrinking 25 percent from 2014.
Products of Note
According to a study published in Lancet in 2014, India ranks third in terms of the highest number of obese people, just behind the United States and China. Combined with nutrition, lifestyle, and demographic transitions unique to the country, this also means a rise in diabetes—a 2015 International Diabetes Federation survey determined that India’s diabetic population was 65.1 million.
To help combat this, in April 2015 Abbott launched its FreeStyle Libre Pro Flash Glucose Monitoring System in India. Unfortunately, self-monitoring of blood glucose is not common practice for Indian people. “There is an immense need for people in India to better manage their diabetes, enabling them to live healthier lives,” said Robert Ford, Abbott’s senior vice president of Diabetes Care. Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Pro System is designed to empower doctors in India to help their patients through rich data and actionable insights. The sensor—slightly larger than a quarter—continuously measures glucose every 15 minutes in interstitial fluid over two weeks, by way of a small filament inserted subcutaneously. This provides a complete glycemic profile that doctors can interpret to determine treatment.
Also launched in April 2015 (this time in the United States) and adding to Abbott’s Diabetes Care portfolio was the FreeStyle Precision Neo Blood Glucose Monitoring System. In addition to a very slim design, small sample size, five-second test time, and memory capability of more than 1,000 readings, FreeStyle Precision Neo was made available over-the-counter, removing the need for insurance paperwork and copays. “Today, consumers have more influence on their healthcare decisions, and Abbott is focused on offering products that provide the highest standard of accuracy, and are also affordable and easily accessible over the counter,” Ford said in a company press release.
The Medical Optics division was no less fruitful. In January 2015 the company announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and launch of two TECNIS multifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs) for patients with cataracts. As opposed to traditional monofocal IOLs, which restore distance vision, multifocal IOLs allow clear vision at multiple distances. The +3.25D IOL is meant for those who enjoy longer reading distances, such as a hand-held tablet. The +2.75 IOL is suited for those who favor activities requiring intermediate vision, like reading labels while shopping. In July 2015, the FDA approved and Abbott subsequently launched its iDesign Advanced WaveScan Studio System. Featuring the sensor technology also used in NASA’s James Webb space telescope, the system operates as the “brain” of Abbott’s LASIK procedure. High-definition scans measure and map eye irregularities that might impact vision, creating a personalized treatment plan based on the eye’s unique “blueprint.”
In April 2015, the FDA cleared the company’s i-STAT Total β-hCG blood test, designed for use with the i-STAT handheld blood analyzer. The blood test is meant to replace traditional urine pregnancy tests, which is critical for women in emergency situations. “During a medical emergency, every minute matters,” said Scott Pennington, RN, BSN, director of Critical Care Services at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center in Panama City, Florida. “A fast blood test to help determine if a woman is pregnant can help doctors and nurses quickly decide appropriate care, which could potentially save lives.”
In May, the company also received CE mark approval for the latest advancement of its Absorb stent system, the Absorb GT1. It combines the world’s first fully dissolving stent with the GlideTrack catheter, intended to ease doctors’ access and treatment of diseased vessels in coronary artery disease patients.
Calm Acquisition Waters Begin to Churn
Following the late 2014 acquisition of Topera, Abbott’s deals in fiscal year 2015 were remarkably few. The only real purchase of note was the $250 million Tendyne Holdings buy, completed in September. The acquisition of the private company aimed to broaden Abbott’s minimally invasive mitral valve replacement options, building on Tendyne’s existing Bioprosthetic Mitral Valve System.
“That we did no major new deals in 2015 in no way suggests that we are not as strategically attuned and ambitious as ever,” Chairman and CEO Miles D. White said in the company’s annual report (the chief executive was included in Barron’s annual list of 30 World’s Best CEOs for the eighth consecutive year, a feat shared with only six other CEOs). “We fully intend to continue building the company through focused, enhancing acquisitions, as we have continually over the past 17 years.” At the time, it became clear that White was referring to the company’s agreement to purchase point-of-care diagnostics giant Alere for $5.8 billion in January 2016.
But anyone paying attention to recent news has figured out that White may have been referring to something much more in his letter. Though the announcement of Abbott’s $25 billion purchase of St. Jude Medical didn’t occur until the end of April 2016, one has to wonder how much was already in the works in late 2015. Was White teasing the public about the impending and momentous buy, the largest medical device acquisition since Medtronic bought Covidien for $42.9 billion in January 2015? Or was he simply reiterating past growth strategy? Only White can answer that question.