(Reuters) — Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) expects more hospitals will be able to offer its new atrial fibrillation treatment starting by the end of the 3rd quarter as it paces the product’s rollout to give physicians time to learn how to use it, CEO Mike Mahoney said yesterday.
The device, called Watchman, was approved by U.S. regulators last month as an alternative to long-term use of blood thinners such as warfarin for patients at high risk of stroke.
"It is a big unmet need. There were many patients waiting for this to be approved in the United States," Mahoney said yesterday in an interview after the company reported 1st-quarter earnings.
U.S. physicians have shown keen interest in the new treatment, according to several analyst surveys. It is the 1st of its kind and works by closing the left atrial appendage in the muscle wall of the heat’s top left chamber.
The company initially will make the device available to the 50 hospitals involved in its clinical trials before regulatory approval, Mahoney said. It is restricting access to allow enough time for physicians to get up to speed on the implant procedure.
"It’s tricky to manage," Mahoney said. "A lot of big centers in the U.S. want it now, but unfortunately we are asking them to delay."
By the end of the 3rd quarter, it plans to begin adding more hospitals toward a near-term goal of doubling the number of facilities that can implant the device to 100, Mahoney said.
"We already have those sites identified, and they are aware of the timing," he said.
More than 400 hospitals have the capabilities to perform the procedure and will qualify eventually, he added.
Atrial fibrillation is a relatively common disorder in which the heart’s two upper chambers beat out of sync with the two lower chambers, increasing the risk for blood clots to form. It affects as many 2.7 million people in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
Boston Scientific is projecting a $500 million market for the Watchman device within five years.
"The demand is certainly high and the physician interest is high," Mahoney said.