Institutes Of Medicine Pain Report May Aid Medical Device Makers

When the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its report on chronic pain late last month, medical device makers cheered.

“A landmark report,” a Boston Scientific press release gushed.

“Chronic pain is a major public health issue, and we applaud Congress [and] the IOM…for their thoughtful recommendations,” Medtronic senior vice president Tom Tefft said in a statement.

Mandated by President Obama’s healthcare reform law, the IOM report laid out ways for the country to improve research and treatment of chronic pain, a condition that affects 116 million Americans.

So why such a big deal to medical device companies?

First, let’s start with the obvious. Pain management, through neuromodulation devices that shoot electricity into the nervous system, has become big business for medical device industry, especially its Big Three: Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and St. Jude Medical. Any high profile report that highlights a potential market of 100 million-plus patients is a good thing for those companies, especially as sales in core devices like pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) slows considerably.

Take Boston Scientific, based in Natick, MA. Neuromodulation was one of the few bright spots for the company in an otherwise dismal fiscal 2010. Sales of neuromodulation devices, including Precision Plus spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy, rose seven percent to $304 million from 2009 while cardiac rhythm management sales (pacemakers and ICDs) dropped 10 percent to $2.1 billion.

Medtronic, headquartered in Fridley, MN, has high hopes for its RestoreSensor SCS device, set to launch in the United States the first quarter of fiscal 2012. The company estimates a potential worldwide market of $1 billion for the device, which can adjust the amount of electricity it shoots into the spine depending on the patient’s position (walking, standing, lying down).

And earlier this week, St. Jude Medical, based in Little Canada, MN, said the Food and Drug Administration approved a limited release of its Epiducer lead (wire) system for SCS therapy. The system allows doctors to insert multiple leads into patient through one entry point.

But the IOM report is noteworthy for two other reasons.

First, the report declares chronic pain to be a “significant public health problem.” While this may seem fairly … Next Page »

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