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supplement antibiotics generally by suppressing staph replication. That’s important because it is nearly impossible for a surgical team to cleanse all bacteria from the deep recesses within the joint, as well as from bone microfissures and patches of dead bone tissue known as sequestra, Benedyk says.
Telephus sees a growing market for its drug, as the number of joint replacement operations increase with the aging U.S. population. Infection rates are projected to increase proportionately as the 670,000 cases of knee replacement surgery now done each year grow to 3.5 million by 2030. The 330,000 annual hip replacements are expected to almost double, Benedyk says. In addition, infection rates for bone fractures that break the skin are about 25 percent, and often require a similar, all-out decontamination effort. (About 80 percent of the bacteria that cause infections reside in the first five layers of the patient’s own skin.)
In an e-mail, Benedyk writes, “The economic burden of infections is expected to exceed 50 percent of the inpatient resources available for revisions by 2025 for total hip arthroplasty [joint replacement] and by 2016 for total knee arthroplasty.”
At the same time, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is predicting a 6,000-surgeon shortfall by 2020 in the number of orthopedic specialists needed to meet the demand for such operations. “By 2016, only 28 percent of needed knee replacements and 54 percent of needed hip replacements will be able to be completed,” Benedyk says.
If Telephus can advance its technology all the way through FDA approval, Benedyk estimates the company could generate sales of roughly $400 million in its fourth year of sales. Of course, that remains a long way off, and Telephus still faces a series of challenges that could rival the 12 labors of Hercules.