The medtech industry’s cardiovascular sector has made tremendous breakthroughs in recent history. Cardiovascular diseases and conditions—while much too prevalent in our society—often can be treated with a device, a drug or a combination of the two (along with a good dose of exercise and a healthy diet, of course). While I certainly don’t want to trivialize the severity of heart problems, the ingenuity behind many treatments today truly is astounding.
While cardiovascular devices—and its supporting technology—always is a big part of the issues we cover in Medical Product Outsourcing, the April edition goes a little more in depth into some of the technology and trends coming out of the device industry’s largest sector. And despite ruminations about U.S. healthcare reform, the growth is expected to continue. According to the GlobalData research group, the worldwide cardiovascular devices market is forecast to reach $54.9 billion in 2016, growing annually at 7 percent between 2009 and 2016. The growth will be fueled, the firm’s research indicated, by demographics we’re all familiar with—an increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases as the result of an aging population and the growth of co-morbidities such as diabetes and obesity. There is a very direct link to diabetes and heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) almost 8 percent of the U.S. population has the disease, and it is estimated that diabetes doubles a person’s risk of developing heart problems. CDC statistics indicate that heart attacks account for 60 percent and strokes for 25 percent of deaths in all diabetics. This month’s Data Watch column on page 32 goes into more detail about device firms’ response to this epidemic.
Cardiovascular companies are eager to tackle new challenges. And ideas don’t always come from a group of researchers plugging away in the lab of a multi-billion dollar device company. This month’s Technology Trends article (page 26) outlines how the FDA recently approved a new pulmonary valve placed via catheter for patients with heart valve defects—particularly children. Though the device was brought to market by device giant Medtronic, the idea for the product came from a pediatric cardiologist working with a jeweler (for the device) and butchers (to obtain tissue for testing) on the initial product design.
Another such story comes out of Farmington, Minn. In this month’s feature, “Listening to her Heart,” Managing Editor Michael Barbella tells the story of a startup company and its novel technology created by a biomedical engineer who lost her husband to the silent killer coronary artery disease (page 44). The small, hand-held device has the potential to revolutionize diagnosis and early treatment. Though the device is years (and millions of dollars) away from commercialization, Marie Johnson, the developer, indeed is following her heart’s mission in life.
“My whole goal in marketing this device is widows and little kids without their dads,” she said. “I keep doing this for the children. I have to do it for them. That is what keeps me moving forward.”
It’s this kind of drive—from small startups and large companies alike—that keeps cardiovascular firms on the cutting edge of product development. Today’s breakthroughs that serve to help millions often start with one person and his or her individual, life-shaping experiences. Maybe the experiences of people like Marie Johnson would force Frank Lloyd Wright to revise his statement.
Perhaps a working mind is the first feature of a strong heart.