For the 1.6 million people in America living with type 1 diabetes, a continuous glucose monitor can be a lifesaver.
Since the first CGM was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, the diabetes community has advocated for lower prices and better insurance coverage for the quarter-sized devices, which regularly sample a proxy for blood glucose levels and can sound an alarm when they swing too high or too low. But the cost-cutting has had an unexpected side effect: Today, glucose monitors are so cheap they’ve spawned a new crop of digital health startups selling the devices to consumers, many of whom don’t have diabetes.
Glucose monitors are only approved in the U.S. for use in people with diabetes who have a prescription. But through networks of remote physicians assembled by these startups, thousands of people have gained access to the devices with off-label prescriptions. NutriSense has shipped about 20,000 CGM units to users since 2019. A company called January came out of stealth last year after its founding in 2017, and launched its product incorporating glucose and heart rate data this January with the announcement of another $8.8 million in funding. Another startup, Levels, is still in beta, with about 6,000 people having gone through the program — and another 105,000 on the waitlist.
The list goes on. In the U.K., where CGMs are available over the counter, there’s MyLevels. Veri, based in Finland and serving the European…