Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

New Medical Technologies Fall Prey to Catch-22

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

New Medical Technologies Fall Prey to Catch-22

Article excerpt

Some patients who have undergone intravascular ultrasound in the few hospitals that offer it were spared bypass surgery, saving tens of thousands of dollars, when doctors learned that they were fine.

Others, like the woman Nissen saw, had huge piles of plaque, although some patients, like the woman, could not benefit from surgery because there was no specific constriction.

If intravascular ultrasound had come on the scene just a few years earlier, cardiologists say, it would have spread quickly. Now, with no insurance payments, just a few medical centers offer it.

Only large medical centers, like the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Medical School, are willing to absorb its costs, taking a loss or paying for it through research grants. A few places, like Tufts University, say they have found creative ways to slip in the cost, unnoticed, on insurance bills.

The new resistance from insurers has left medicaluipment manufacturers dangling, said Steven Speil, director of payment and health care delivery at the Health Industry Manufacturers Association.

"Payers say, `Give us more information on what it can do.' But you can't generate more data absent reimbursement," he said. Speil said a growing number of companies are giving up on new technologies.

The medicaluipment industry offers great potential for profitability once a device gains wide use. Sabino said gross profit would typically be around 60 percent for machines like ultrasound devices, and about 80 percent for catheters.

The ultrasound machines that make intravascular images sell for $75,000 to $100,000. The catheters, which can't be reused, sell for $400 to $800.

The ultrasound machines and catheters are being made mostly by small companies, including Intertherapy in Irvine, Calif., Endosonics in Pleasanton, Calif., and Cardiovascular Imaging Systems in Sunnyvale, Calif.

But last month, Hewlettckard announced that it would start making the ultrasound machines as well, teaming up with Boston Scientific, a Watertown, Mass. …

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