Market Opportunities Increase for Treating Sleep Disorders

By Kristin Reed Bloomberg News | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Market Opportunities Increase for Treating Sleep Disorders


Kristin Reed Bloomberg News, THE JOURNAL RECORD


WASHINGTON -- When Richard Nirenberg told his doctor he was dying for a good night's sleep, his self-diagnosis was much closer to the truth than he ever would have suspected.

A habitual snorer, Nirenberg, a 60-year-old college administrator, learned that he was suffering from sleep apnea -- repeated episodes of stopped breathing throughout the night -- and that it could lead to cardiovascular problems including heart attack and stroke.

"It is the most dangerous of the sleep disorders," said Yosef Krespi, a head and neck surgeon at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. "It impacts longevity, well-being and performance." Growing awareness that sleep disorders are more than just annoying -- and are in fact life threatening -- has made conditions such as Nirenberg's sleep apnea the focus of medical attention and commercial innovation. That's creating a market opportunity for companies that make drugs and devices designed to treat sleep disorders. "We're in sleep and nothing else," said Peter Farrell, chief executive officer for ResMed. "Its a market of billions and billions." Farrell's company, based in San Diego, Calif., makes devices to aid in breathing during sleep and is among a handful of entrants in a fast-growing market. "The number of patients being diagnosed is growing very rapidly," said Jon Osgood, an analyst with Alex Brown & Sons. "Physicians are really now being trained to recognize sleep disorders," and that is driving "tremendous growth." Among other companies with new products for sleep disorders are Respironics, Medtronic, and Cephalon and Healthdyne. ResMed has seen its sales climb 42 percent over the past year, Farrell said, and he expects the sleep market to keep growing. Just last week, ResMed announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of its humidifier device which is to be used with the company's apnea product line. ResMed's shares have climbed more than 18 percent in the past year. Respironics' shares have rebounded from a tumble this fall, rising more than 28 percent since the company announced Food and Drug Administration approval of its most recent apnea device in February. Sleep apnea "is a key factor in our overall corporate growth rate," said Dan Bevevino, chief financial officer for Forest Hills, Penn.-based Respironics. Overall, the sleep market is growing at close to 25 percent a year, said Jeffery Barnes, an analyst with Robertson, Stephens, and analysts agree it won't slow anytime soon. "It's hardly a saturated market," Barnes said. "There is still a very large, untreated, undiagnosed population." Products to treat apnea alone generated $250 million in sales last year, he said. In the United States only about 5 percent of an estimated 6 million patients needing treatment are diagnosed. In apnea, patients stop breathing -- due to a partial collapse of the breathing airway as the neck muscles relax into sleep apnea -- until they are briefly awakened by a deep and panicked reflex breath. …

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