By Matt Stupfel
Health-care technology companies have long been easily categorized. There were device makers and there were drug makers. But those lines are being obscured by a kind of business that’s not quite a device maker and not quite a pharma company.
Born out of rising competitive forces that reward innovation and threaten the status quo, this new breed of health care products starts with a familiar value proposition: providing medical professionals with the best resources to effectively and efficiently treat patients. By bringing together the leading science and technology from the device and pharma worlds – pooling data, educating physicians and sharing approaches to innovation – inventive leaders are creating products that could revolutionize the delivery and practice of medicine.
I can attest to these benefits firsthand. At EKOS, a BTG International group company I lead, we’ve developed acoustic pulse technology designed to dissolve blood clots faster and more safely than previous methods through a targeted local delivery of thrombolytic agents. I won’t drag you too far into the clinical realm, but our medical devices exist to more efficiently facilitate the delivery of important – sometimes life-saving – drugs to patients suffering from pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or other issues that involve clots in blood vessels. There you have it: a medical device business that works hand in hand with pharmaceuticals to achieve greater benefits for patients.
Beyond this development, there’s good reason to believe that leaders in both fields are wising up to the benefits of collaboration. I’ve seen it myself in recent months at several clinical conferences, where a data-driven approach grounded in clinical experience and a physician’s informed judgment at the point of care has supplanted the old zero-sum thinking that animated the rivalry between these two industries.
Late last year at the 41st annual VEITH symposium, a conference for vascular specialists, I presented EKOS’s innovative approach. I was excited to share our technology and proud to play a part in moving patient care forward, but I was most eager to hear from physicians. I wanted to know what the science was telling them, and what their experiences were with their own patients.
During clinical presentations and debates, EKOS sometimes came up as an example of a tool for aggressive treatment that can augment conservative approaches that rely on more conventional delivery mechanisms for pharmaceuticals alone. At the same time, I also heard about the effectiveness of the agents that our technology helps to deliver.
I think the main takeaway is that if you listen carefully to physicians, you hear providers in the real world following data and clinical experience shared by both pharma and device industries, and those of us between the two, to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the patient. The patient’s not a drug candidate or a device candidate, but a person whose condition is increasingly better understood and available for multiple approaches and combinations that are getting better and better, offering more precise solutions not within grasp just a few years ago.
The new breed of medical-technology companies, and the different approaches to science we foster, are contributing to that approach. And as the science and technology develop, opportunities for meaningful intersections grow exponentially.
Nor was this experience particular to VEITH. At the International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy, held in Hollywood, Florida, at the end of January, I listened to four physicians present separately on new studies that show how device systems enable thrombolytic drugs to do their work more effectively. At the Society of Interventional Radiology at the end of February in Atlanta, and the American College of Cardiology this past March, I was heartened to hear more of this.
Clinical conferences like the VEITH symposium, ISET and others foster a rich, data-driven discussion that examines the most targeted approach for delivering therapies and yielding optimal efficacy.
In the brave new world of evidence-based, data-driven medicine, medical-technology companies of all stripes face an existential requirement to demonstrate that their products change the game. For the pharmaceutical world, that has traditionally meant drawing on very large trials to provide evidence about both the safety and efficacy of their drugs before they’re brought to market. For device companies, which are highly focused on what happens in the clinical setting at the moment therapy is delivered, that has meant drawing keen insights from clinical experiences after their products have been introduced. Because each industry has a different pathway from the laboratory to the hospital, we can learn a great deal from one another about how to sensibly gather key clinical data, marshal our insights and design products – some of which may have not been realized – that continually reveal and respond to what’s in the patient’s best interests.
What I like, and what I’m seeing more of, is the rise not only of new technology, but of a new conversation. What I’m hearing is constructive discussion about how to use the best scientific and technical knowledge available to achieve results at the patient level. The epicenters of this conversation may be at clinical conferences like VEITH, ISET, SIR and ACC, where there is an opportunity to focus on highly beneficial and productive innovations in the health care technology industry that will serve to benefit everyone – innovators, physicians and, most importantly, patients.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MassDevice.com or its employees.