An Indian physician who praised two recent product launches that St. Jude Medical made in the local market provided a glimpse of at least one other product Indian patients can expect from the Minnesota device maker in the near future.
“I think St. Jude will be coming out with remote monitoring technology very soon,” said Dr. Mohan Nair, president of the Indian Heart Rhythm Society and director of electrophysiology and arrythmia services at Max Healthcare Institute, a hospital chain in New Delhi. “They have to. Both Medtronic and BioTronik do. Also, hospitals and patients prefer it.”
A St. Jude Medical spokeswoman wouldn’t disclose a time line beyond saying that “remote monitoring is one of several technologies that St. Jude Medical plans to introduce in India soon to support underserved populations.”
The monitoring technology will be based on the Merlin platform that St. Jude has developed.
Earlier this month, the company introduced the next generation of Unify cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators (CRT-D) and Fortify implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) in India. The same products were introduced in Japan last week. They are “the smallest available device footprint in the industry” worldwide, St. Jude said. Both devices are also available in the U.S. and Europe.
Nair said that the alarm system the new products have as well as their reduced size are two big advantages of Unify and Fortify.
“It makes it much easier to implant in Indian patients whose body surface area is much less than the average European or American patient,” he noted. “Some Indian patients are very thin and frail.”
Nair said it would be unfair to compare these products to Medtronicor Guidant cardiac devices available in India since those companies have yet to introduce single-point-of-connection devices there.
He expects the new Fortify and Unify products to be slightly more expensive than previous iterations and dispelled the notion that products introduced in countries like India and China necessarily need to be cheaper.
“Indian patients are ready to pay more for added value,” he noted and added that the 250-million strong middle class has plenty of disposable income.
Even in rural areas, some patients can afford advanced medical devices, he said.
“Except for huge changes in price and absolutely new products like transcutaneous valve replacement … device market would not be affected by these small changes in pricing,” Nair noted.
Max Healthcare, however, mainly serves the more affluent urban populations. But Nair said that through relationships with other hospitals on the periphery of metropolitan areas, the hospital chain does care for some rural patients as well.
“It’s certainly not 100 percent urban,” he said of Max Healthcare’s patient mix.
The Indian device market is expected to expand by 150 percent in 2015 and reach a value of $2 billion. The entry of companies like St. Jude Medical to India, eager to take advantage of a population hungry to consume health-care products, has been fruitful for Indian physicians and patients alike.
Whereas Medtronic entered the market in 1979, St. Jude’s products became available only in 1994. The company’s wholly owned Indian subsidiary was established only six years ago.
Nair said the competition between the various medical device firms has meant that product introductions happen faster, better products get introduced and the price remains competitive.
“Frankly, Max Healthcare doesn’t care if we do not want to deal with Medtronic at all,” Nair said. “They could be world leaders, but unless they come down to our terms … we easily have other choices. There was a time when we didn’t have that choice.”