Medical device companies: 3 thoughts for 2013

December 31, 2012 by Brian Johnson

MassDevice publisher Brian Johnson offers 3 thoughts for the medical device industry to consider in the coming year.

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In putting the finishing touches on a year that in many ways was not a great one for the medical device industry, I thought it might be appropriate to clean out the notebook on some thoughts on the previous year and - more to the point - the coming year.

We've written about 2,500 or so stories this year about the medical device industry and spoken to hundreds of leaders in the space about their thoughts, concerns, annoyances and triumphs. Through that work I've gleaned a few things about the industry and I offer my thoughts as an informed observer of the industry - not, to quote Dr. Thomas Fogarty a "combatant in the field." I don't portend to know all the intricacies of this complex and remarkable industry.

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1. Look past current challenges

You won't get any argument with the assertion that the current environment for medical device companies is difficult at best, with a list of plights that could dim even the rosiest optimism. And 2012 has been bleary, with about 7,000 jobs shed this year alone, representing about 1.5% of the total med tech work force, according to one analysis.

The justifications for those cuts are multi-layered and cannot be placed on any single factor alone, but we know the following facts are pretty much set in stone:

The medical device tax, which takes effect tomorrow, will hurt the most vulnerable companies (firms with less than $100 million in sales) and force the flagship firms in the industry to shed jobs in places like R&D and sales - if they haven't already.

The environment for reimbursed procedures continues to be a challenge, both domestically and abroad.

Formerly high-flying sectors, such as the CRM market, have experienced a painful slowdown. And we won't even discuss the funding environment for fear of sending hordes of ambitious entrepreneurs to the bottle.