You would never know it from their stock price, which is soaring, but as far as the actual performance of their product (overall, this is person-to-person, I know), and their customer service, it seems that Dexcom has taken a nosedive as a company over the past year, and that is frightening as it is a company so dear to many of us here and one upon which so many of us rely.
It is a real shame. When we started a few years ago, Dexcom was incredible. Their product really WORKED and worked well, and their customer service was fantastic. Their staff seemed to understand how difficult this disease is for those dealing with it and worked to make things right. I felt a great sense of loyalty to this brand… as if this company “got it”, was in it with us, and delivered an excellent product that could be counted on and service that made me comfortable that they would always be there if something went wrong with their product and help was needed. Dexcom was a rock.
Now their product (the G6) is no longer reliable for a not-insignificant percentage of users and their service is not nearly as good for any of us as it once was. It is like the bottom has dropped out in the past year or so. It is very frustrating to go BACKWARD in tech and service… three years ago I had a sensor system with the G4 Platinum with share that gave my family:
A long range to the receiver, provided by RF
Ultra stable readings with no dropouts - again, a byproduct of the superior RF technology
2 weeks or so sensor wear
The ability to see raw data during warmup - something we did not trust to dose from but which was very helpful to see if things were flying up or down and needed checking, rather than just waiting for 2 hours in the dark.
A transmitter with a small profile.
A transmitter with a life of six months to a year.
All of that disappeared with the next model, the G5, as Dexcom went from ultra-stable and long-range RF, which never dropped out, to finicky and much-shorter range Bluetooth, which has many more data dropouts, including, distressingly at night (we had a G5 for a few months). This bluetooth-only product also has to be kept much closer to our child, which is far more inconvenient. The higher-profile transmitters (due to Bluetooth) now only lasted three months, and raw data was all of a sudden hidden on warmup.
So the “new” generation tech gave us less information, less range, less stability and less usability and convenience. The only positive tradeoff was the ability to go straight to a phone without a receiver, but that feature really was not meaningful for the way our family uses this device, so it was not a draw.
Now, with the G6, it is apparently even worse by the accounts I have been seeing. The only thing to return from my original list is the low-profile transmitter. Everything else is still at that frustrating step back technologically. But even worse, there are now massive backorders, very high sensor failure rates for many people, and larger data dropouts, especially at night, etc. Obviously, this is person to person. The G6 apparently works great for many, including for my brother’s family, who has no complaints. But I have also seen far more online about failures and other issues for people using the G6 than I did about the G5, and Dexcom’s CEO has acknowledged these issues.
The large failure rates have combined with the new markets now opening up to these sensors to create a situation where there are constant backorders for the G6, with many people having large gaps in their CGM coverage as a result, which is just unacceptable. This did not happen on the G4 or G5. It is a step back. And now customer service has suffered as a result of all of this, with long wait times being the norm, callbacks to customers not happening, people getting hung up on, orders not getting shipped out, etc.
Basically, the G6 seems to be, overall, a catastrophe for Dexcom. I realize it has not been a catastrophe for their stock, but this collapse in their product quality and service could be the beginning of doom for the company, particularly the moment a viable competitor appears.
We should not be going backward in service and tech. The product should get better, not worse. T1Ds who have come to rely on this product should not be, all of a sudden, getting gaps in their coverage due to failing sensors which no longer last, backorders, and bad customer service. Dexcom has a near-monopoly due to the insane and costly FDA approval system in this country, which so massively slows innovation and competition. But they will not have that forever, and they do not need to act like they have it. The stakes are too high for too many families.
How frustrating to go from something we as a family started on THREE YEARS AGO, the G4 Platinum with Share, which was fantastic, to each new generation since getting worse technologically and presenting, at best, tradeoffs rather than straight improvements (from our point of view - I’m sure some of the improvements are better for other people’s situations), and with Dexcom’s service getting worse to match.
But the decline in quality is not limited to the new tech - even the old tech is now taking a hit at Dexcom. I have seen here that many people getting the G4/G5 sensors have noticed them all of a sudden take a nosedive in how long they normally last when worn. We have seen the same thing. The sensors used to last around two weeks. All the newer ones are not even lasting a week. This has gone on for months now. Dex rep told me that if it a sensor gets to the 6th day that is now considered a week, so they will not replace those anymore. That is a new policy, and not a good policy, because it could create unfair gaps in coverage for patients. If one’s insurance covers a month worth of sensors and they all happened to crap out at the start of the 6th day then one could, at absolutely no fault of their own, be 8 or so days shy of the month with no sensors available and no way to get more until the month rolls over. This is not right, and it would not have happened at this company two years ago. More going backward.
The CEO of Dexcom, Kevin Sayer, recently said on a diabetes podcast that G6 failure rates were due to the new algorithm - the FDA’s accuracy standard across the low and high ranges required a new algorithm that was more exacting than the older models, he said, and thus sensors fail when they can no longer meet the standard. These sensors would not have failed under the older G4/G5 algorithm.
This may be true, but I cannot imagine it is the whole explanation, because if that were all that were going on then the G4/G5 sensors would not also be failing sooner. But they are, and without any new algorithm. Clearly, there was a manufacturing change that caused this. My suspicion is they began putting less enzyme on the sensors to stop people from wearing them beyond the allotted time (7 or 10 days). This could have been an economic decision or something to do with the FDA not liking people wearing them beyond the “approved” time. But whatever it is, it is a huge pain for the user, more going backward with the product and now service, and it is clear that the algorithm alone cannot be the cause of all these failures as the G4/G5 sensors are also being affected .
I wish they would just go back to the old manufacturing standard. With the G6, the high failure rate combined with expansion into new markets has caused constant backorders and delays. That is not cool, considering these devices are used to keep people from going into comas and for staving off long-term complications. Patient and caregivers should not be faced with days or weeks without CGM coverage because of a manufacturing change which has made the product worse. Dexcom should change manufacturing back to what it was and give people some padding again with their time. It is no fun to be without a CGM once one is used to using it.
For that matter I really wish they would reincorporate RF for those who want to use it. It is just a way better technology than bluetooth - it goes further and is far more stable. I know bringing that back is incredibly unlikely, so I will not hold my breath, but its loss is unfortunate.
At any rate, this post was just a bit of venting, as my frustration with what has been going on with Dexcom has been mounting. And I know I am not alone, based on what I have been hearing from others. I have gone from being an enormously loyal booster of Dexcom to all who would listen to now being frightened at what is going on with the company and worried about what it means for future care. The product getting worse and the service going backward is not something we want to see.
This turnaround feels like being adrift at sea in a lifeboat, and for a few shining minutes sighting a large vessel coming in for the rescue, only to see that vessel now turning the other way, and maybe disappearing forever beyond the fog bank. It is disheartening.
I have loved Dexcom, and still do. I cannot imagine life as a diabetic caregiver without it. Those who work at this company are not only providing jobs and making money for shareholders, they are truly making the world a better place and immeasurably helping the lives of many who have a very difficult disease. I would be proud to work there, and I know all who do are doing their best. But I find myself more and more hopeful that competitors, foreign and domestic, will arise and offer some real competition so things may get back on track.
I was not thinking that way a year ago. Now I do almost daily. What a shame.