Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) subsidiary Ethicon touted a study showing that the Linx device it acquired two years ago was cheaper than laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication in treating gastrointestinal reflux disease.
Shoreview, Minn.-based Torax Medical makes the Linx device, an implant of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores designed to augment the esophageal sphincter to prevent reflux in GERD patients. Ethicon paid an unspecified amount for Torax in March 2017.
Presented last week at the annual meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal & Endoscopic Surgeons in Baltimore, the study was funded by Ethicon and Highmark Health’s Vital incubator. It compared total procedural cost and disease-related and overall medical claim costs 12 months before and 12 months after 180 Linx patients and 1,130 LNF patients at Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network in Pennsylvania. Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication wraps a portion of the upper stomach around the lower esophagus to prevent reflux.
The mean per-member-per-month reimbursement claims for upper GI disease one year after Linx dropped 66% percent to $104 and 46% for LNF, according to the study. Overall PMPM claims fell 10.7% for Linx patients and 1.4% for LNF patients; reimbursement for proton pump inhibitors and GERD acid suppression drugs fell 95% after Linx and 90% after LNF.
The average Linx procedure was more expensive, costing $14,379 compared with $13,691 for LNF. The difference is offset by lower costs a year out, the researchers said.
“The higher initial cost of a Linx procedure compared to a Nissen fundoplication is perceived as a drawback by insurers, which made getting insurance approvals challenging,” lead researcher Dr. Blair Jobe, director of Allegheny’s Esophageal & Lung Institute, said in prepared remarks. “This study suggests that perception may be short-sighted in that insurance plans can provide better care for their GERD patients at a similar cost to laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication when you factor in the greater reductions in medical costs after the procedure.”
“This study demonstrated that the Linx System was cost effective and should be more widely covered by insurers,” added Ethicon endomechanical president Tom O’Brien. “Ethicon will continue to help support studies that enable clinicians, patients, insurers and health systems to make the best possible decisions about which treatments work best for which patients and at what cost.”