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Abbott shares jump after approval for diabetes monitor; competitor DexCom crashes on surprise news

  • Abbott Laboratories stock rose 4 percent Wednesday after a surprise FDA announcement.
  • The Food and Drug Administration approved Abbott's FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system.
  • Competitor DexCom saw shares crater by more than 36 percent, its worst drop ever.
An employee walks near an Abbott Laboratories sign at the company's headquarters complex in Abbott Park, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee walks near an Abbott Laboratories sign at the company's headquarters complex in Abbott Park, Illinois.

Abbott Laboratories stock jumped after the Food and Drug Administration approved the company's FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system, more than a year earlier than Wall Street anticipated.

While Abbott shares jumped 4 percent Wednesday after the surprise FDA call, competitor DexCom saw its shares crater by more than 36 percent.

Abbott's Libre is the first glucose monitoring system that adult diabetic patients can use to make treatment decisions without using a fingertip blood system. Analysts at J.P. Morgan say Abbott's aggressive distribution strategy has "the five largest pharmacies" ready to begin selling the device in the U.S. as early as December.

J.P. Morgan, which downgrades shares of DexCom to neutral from buy on the news, also said Abbott's pricing for the device is "even more aggressive than our expectations." Abbott will charge an effective rate of around $4 per day for Libre, lower than the $6 analysts at J.P. Morgan anticipated.

What changes for DexCom

DexCom is no longer the sole competitor in manufacturing glucose monitoring systems, J.P. Morgan said. With new, low-priced competition, the firm says DexCom now must innovate under pressure to discount its hardware, which previously made margins of 45 to 50 percent per device. But all is not lost for DexCom, as J.P. Morgan says its "technology is superior to Libre."

"Before long, DexCom should be able to surpass the Libre offering," J.P. Morgan said. "But it will be at a lower price point and likely less attractive economics than we've all been expecting."

The technology still has a distance to go before widespread adoption, according to J.P. Morgan, but continuous glucose monitoring is headed toward becoming the standard for monitoring Type 1 diabetics. The firm warned in closing that DexCom's lead in the market is now smaller.

"In a remarkably short period of time, in Europe and now other markets outside the US, Abbott has seized the lead from Dexcom, winning multiple regulatory and reimbursement approvals and building a $450 million market for Libre seemingly overnight," J.P. Morgan added.