Medtronic's CEO: New Treatments and Hope for Battling Diabetes

Diabetes has become a pandemic of monumental proportion.

Not only has it threatened the lives of millions, but it also has added to the massive economic burden of chronic disease. The International Diabetes Federationestimates that at least 285 million people worldwide have diabetes, and that number is estimated to more than double by 2030.

Untreated, diabetes accelerates and contributes to the development of other serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, amputation, blindness, and kidney disease. In the U.S. alone, nearly eight percent of the population has either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, costing our healthcare system nearly $200 billion annually, nearly 10 percent of all U.S. healthcare expenditures.

Not since the pivotal discovery of insulin’s role in the regulation of blood glucose in the late 19th century has the advancement and innovation of diabetes management been more pronounced.


Today, physicians have at their disposal a wide array of therapies capable of treating the entire continuum of the disease.

Moreover, in the last 30 years, we have made remarkable advances in the technologies that both measure blood sugar levels and deliver precise doses of insulin.

In fact, there are few other diseases where technology innovation has brought so many advancements in such a short time.

Take, for example, continuous glucose monitoring or CGM, where small wearable sensors the size of a quarter helps diabetes patients monitor their blood sugar in near real time, giving them significantly better control over their disease.

It is also important to recognize that the medical technology industry is a unique American success story. And given the contributions it makes to human welfare and long-term economic value, by any measure, it is an industry that needs to be nurtured and supported. This is critical because the health of our industry is inextricably linked to our ability to continue to innovate, helping those with diabetes to live better more productive lives and to someday finding a cure.

Looking to the future, we’re actively working with healthcare professionals, caregivers and the entire diabetes community to further innovate diabetes treatments that leverage the last decade’s convergence of biological, engineering and informational technologies; a convergence driving the rapid advancement of diabetes management technology.

Imagine, for example, a parent being able to read their child’s blood sugar levels on their phone, Blackberry or other PDA—anytime anywhere—all through a small sensor attached to the child’s skin. Or imagine an automated system that could mimic the insulin-regulating capability of the pancreas by leveraging wireless technology, CGM and an insulin pump to effectively manage insulin delivery.

By doing so, we’re helping patients with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, while dramatically reducing the economic burden of diabetes by billions of dollars.

One study has even suggested that if 80 percent of patients followed the American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Diabetes Care, which includes appropriately controlling blood sugar levels, the healthcare system could save $50 billion over 30 years.

And imagine for a moment that diabetes was cured; the estimated cost savings for that same 30 year period could reach $700 billion.

Medical device innovation holds the potential to increase life expectancy, improve quality of life and to dramatically reduce the overall cost of chronic disease. Never before have the stakes been so high, and never before have our solutions offered so much promise to so many.

Editor's Note: Mr. Hawkins will be a guest on CNBC's Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromoat 4:30pm/et today. He will be live from the Convention Center in Orlando at the annual American Diabetes Association Meeting.

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William A. Hawkins became the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic, Inc. in August 2007 and became Chairman of the Board in August 2008. He was named President and Chief Operating Officer in May 2004 after joining Medtronic as Senior Vice President and President of Medtronic's Vascular business in January 2002. Hawkins joined Medtronic from Novoste Corp., where he had been President and Chief Executive Officer since 1998. He received his bachelor’s of science degree in electrical and biomedical engineering from Duke University in 1976 where he also conducted medical research in pathology. Mr. Hawkins also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, in 1982.