Category Archives: gynecology

Where will medicine be 20 years from now?

My answer from this question on Quora.

I can answer this question, at least speculatively, from the perspective of clinical practice and medical technology. The other side of “where medicine will be” is the question of healthcare delivery systems, reimbursement, etc. To get that part of it out of the way, it is clear that some form of reform in healthcare will result in a consolidation of the infrastructure paying for and managing patient populations. The infrastructure is bloated and expensive, unnecessarily adding to costs that neither the federal government nor individuals can sustain. This is not to say that I predict movement to a single payer system — that is just one perceived solution to the problem. There are far too many costs in healthcare that offer no benefits in terms of quality; indeed, such costs are a true impediment to quality. Funds that go to infrastructure (insurance companies and other intermediaries and the demands they put on healthcare delivery work directly against quality of care. So, whether it is Obamacare, a single payer system, state administered healthcare (exchanges) or some other as-yet-unidentified form, there will be change in how healthcare is delivered from a cost/management perspective.

From the clinical practice and technology side, there will be enormous changes to healthcare. Here are examples of what I see from tracking trends in clinical practice and medical technology development:

  • Cancer 5 year survival rates will, for many cancers, be well over 90%. Cancer will largely be transformed in most cases to chronic disease that can be effectively managed by surgery, immunology, chemotherapy and other interventions.
  • Diabetes Type 1 (juvenile onset) will be managed in most patients by an “artificial pancreas”, a closed loop glucometer and insulin pump that will self-regulate blood glucose levels. OR, stem cell or other cell therapies may well achieve success in restoring normal insulin production and glucose metabolism in Type 1 patients. The odds are better that a practical, affordable artificial pancreas will developed than stem or other cell therapy, but both technologies are moving aggressively and will gain dramatic successes within 20 years.
  • Diabetes Type 2 (adult onset) will be a significant problem governed by different dynamics than Type 1. A large body of evidence will exist that shows dramatically reduced incidence of Type 2 associated with obesity management (gastric bypass, satiety drugs, etc.) that will mitigate the growing prevalence of Type 2, but research into pharmacologic or other therapies may at best achieve only modest advances. The problem will reside in the complexity of different Type 2 manifestation, the late onset of the condition in patients who are resistant to the necessary changes in lifestyle and the global epidemic that will challenge dissemination of new technologies and clinical practices to third world populations.
  • Cell therapy and tissue engineering will offer an enormous number of solutions for conditions currently treated inadequately, if at all. Below is an illustration of the range of applications currently available or in development, a list that will expand (along with successes in each) over the next 20 years.
  • Gene therapy will be an option for a majority of genetically-based diseases (especially inherited diseases) and will offer clinical options for non-inherited conditions. Advances in the analysis of inheritance and expression of genes will also enable advanced interventions to either ameliorate or actually preempt the onset of genetic disease.
  • Drug development will be dramatically more sophisticated, reducing the development time and cost while resulting in drugs that are far more clinically effective (and less prone to side effects). This arises from drug candidates being evaluated via distributed processing systems (or quantum computer systems) that can predict efficacy and side effect without need of expensive and exhaustive animal or human testing.
  • Most surgical procedures will achieve the ability to be virtually non-invasive. Natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery will enable highly sophisticated surgery without ever making an abdominal or other (external) incision. Technologies like “gamma knife” and similar will have the ability to destroy tumors or ablate pathological tissue via completely external, energy-based systems.
  • Information technology will radically improve patient management. Very sophisticated electronic patient records will dramatically improve patient care via reduction of contraindications, predictive systems to proactively manage disease and disease risk, and greatly improve the decision-making of physicians tasked with diagnosing and treating patients.
  • Systems biology will underlie the biology of most future medical advances in the next 20 years. Systems biology is a discipline focused on an integrated understanding of cell biology, physiology, genetics, chemistry, and a wide range of other individual medical and scientific disciplines. It represents an implicit recognition of an organism as an embodiment of multiple, interdependent organ systems and its processes, such that both pathology and wellness are understood from the perspective of the sum total of both the problem and the impact of possible solutions.


There will be many more unforeseen medical advances achieved within 20 years, many arising from research that may not even be imagined yet. However, the above advances are based on actual research and/or the advances that have already arisen from that research.

Growth in Sales of Products in Cell Therapy and Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering and cell therapy comprise a market for regenerative products that has been growing and will continue to grow at over 20% annually through 2018. This market spans many specialties, the biggest of which is therapies for degenerative and traumatic orthopedic and spine applications. Other disorders that will benefit from cell therapies include cardiac and vascular disease, a wide range of neurological disorders, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and dental decay and/or injury. Key factors expected to influence the market for regenerative medicine are continued political actions, government funding, clinical trials results, industry investments, and an increasing awareness among both physicians and the general public of the accessibility of cell therapies for medical applications.

The current high rate of growth in cell therapy and tissue engineering product sales is due to the confluence of multiple market drivers:

  • Advances in basic science revealing the nature of cell growth, differentiation and proliferation
  • Advances by industry to manipulate and determine cell growth toward specific therapeutic solutions
  • Low barrier to entry for competitors in the market
  • Broad range of applications of cell/tissue advances to many different specialties with modest adaptation needed
  • Strong venture funding

The dominant clinical area driving cell therapy and tissue engineering product sales is orthopedics and musculoskeletal, wherein bone grafts and bone graft substitutes are well-established. Below is the projected balance of cell therapy and tissue engineering product revenues by clinical area through 2018.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.26.25 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S520.

While orthopedics, musculoskeletal and spine applications will remain a huge share of this market, more growth is coming from cell/tissue products in most other areas, which have only recently (within the last five years) begun to establish themselves.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.34.50 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S520.

Medtech from incremental to quantum leap advances

Advanced medical technologies become advanced by the application of innovation that results in more effective, less costly or otherwise arguably better outcomes (including reduced risk of complications or disease recurrence) for patients, including in some cases enabling treatment when none was previously possible. It is intrinsic to every entrepreneur that the idea he/she is pursuing accomplishes this.

Manufacturers of products on the market have an imperative to either improve upon those products or make them obsolete. This imperative is manifested in a spectrum of planned innovation from simple incremental innovations to the quantum leap of a radically new approach.

There is an enormous amount of technology development, often applicable to multiple different clinical applications, that will be realized in product markets in the future. For the moment, though, I would like to look beyond “incremental improvements” or “product line extensions” or other marginal advances that serve little more than superficially addressing shortcomings of existing products on the market. I would like to look at waves of innovation coming in the short to long term that are expected to impact medtech in ways that are increasingly “radical” or represent varying orders of magnitude of improvement in results.

Three categories spanning short, mid, and long reflect what I see in medtech development. Below, I outline the nature of each and the specific examples that are or will be emerging.

Short term. With change encompassing technologies that are just sufficiently different so that they cannot simply be called incremental innovations, some short term advances often combine two or more complementary and/or synergistic technologies in new ways to advance healthcare. Examples include:

  • Image-guided surgeries to augment the surgeon’s ability to navigate complex anatomy or discern the margins of healthy versus disease tissue.
  • Natural orifice endoscopic surgery (and shift in general from invasive to interventional and intraductal procedures) to either drastically reduce or eliminate the trauma of surgical access
  • Non-invasive therapeutics (like lithotripsy, gamma knife, others) to treat disease without trauma to collateral tissues.
  • Genome-driven treatment profiling (prescreening to determine ideal patients with high probable response).
  • Personalized (custom) implants. These already exist in orthopedics, but the potential for customized implants in gastroenterology, cardiology, and many other clinical areas is wholly untapped.
  • Regenerative technologies (bone, skin, other). These technologies represent introductory markets with lowered challenge compared to more complex functional anatomy (e.g., vital organs).
  • Smart devices (implantable sensors, RFID-tagged implants, etc.) to provide data to clinicians on implant location and status or, in the extreme respond diagnostically or therapeutically to changes in the implant’s immediate environment.

Mid-term. These are new therapeutic options that are fundamentally different than those in current use for a given treatment option. These are technologies that have demonstrated high probability of being feasible in large scale use, but have not yet accumulated enough clinical data to warrant full regulatory approval.

  • Nanotech surface technologies for biocompatibility, localized treatment delivery or other advantages at the interface between patient and product.
  • Materials that adapt to changes in implant environment, to maintain pH, to release drugs, to change shape.
  • Artificial heart. A vital organ replacement that currently has demonstrated the capacity to be a bridge to transplant but has also advanced sufficiently to open the possibility of permanent replacement in the not-too-distant future.
  • Cell/device hybrids. These are organ replacements (e.g., kidney, lung, liver) performing routine function or natural organs, but configured in a device to address unresolved issues of long term function, immune response and others.
  • Artificial organs (other than heart) — closed loop glucometer/insulin pump (artificial pancreas). These are not even partial biological representations of the natural organ, but completely synthetic “organs” that intelligently regulate and maintain a steady state (e.g., blood glucose levels) by combining the necessary functions through combined, closed-loop mechanical means (an insulin pump and glucometer with the necessary algorithms or program to independently respond to changes in order to otherwise maintain a steady state.

Long-term. Orders of magnitude, quantum shift, paradigm shift or otherwise fundamentally different means to serve clinical need.

  • 3D implant printing. In a recent example, in an emergency situation a 3D implant for repair of a infant’s trachea was approved by the FDA. These implants, as in the case of the trachea repair, will most often be customized for specific patients, matching their specific anatomy and may even include their (autologous) cells. They may also be made of other materials including extracellular matrices that will stimulate natural cell migration followed eventually by bioabsorption of the original material. Depending upon type of material and complexity of the anatomy, these technologies may emerge in the near or distant future.
  • Gene therapies. Given the root cause of many diseases has a genetic component or is entirely due to a genetic defect, gene therapies will be “permanent corrections” of those defects. An enormous number of hurdles remain to be crossed before gene therapies are largely realized. These deal with delivery and permanent induction of the corrected genes into patients.
  • Stem cell therapies. The potential applications are many and the impact enormous of stem cell therapies, but while stem cell technology (whether for adult or embryonic) has made enormous strides, many challenges remain in solving the cascade of differentiation while avoiding the potential for aberrant development of these cells, sometimes to proliferative (cancerous) states.
  • “Rational” therapeutics. Whether by stem cell therapies, gene therapies or other biochemical or biological approach, “rational” therapeutics represent the consummate target for medical technology. Such therapeutics are “rational” in the sense that they perfectly address disease states (i.e., effect cures) without complication or need for recurrent intervention.

There are certainly more holes than fabric in this tapestry of short-, mid- and long-term technology innovation, but this should serve to illustrate the correlation between the sophistication of the potential medtech solution and the level of technical challenge in order to achieve each.

 

Reference reports in Ophthalmology, Coronary Stents and Tissue Engineering

MedMarket Diligence has added three previously published, comprehensive analyses of  medtech markets to its Reference Reports listings. The markets covered in the three reports are:

  • Ophthalmology Diagnostics, Devices and Drugs (see link)
  • Coronary Stents: Drug-Eluting, Bare, Bioresorbable and Others (see link)
  • Tissue Engineering, Cell Therapy and Transplantation (see link)

Termed “Reference Reports”, these detailed studies were initially completed typically within the past five years. They now serve as exceptional references to those markets, since fundamental data about each of these markets has remained largely unchanged. Such data includes:

  • Disease prevalence, incidence and trends (including credible forecasts to the present)
  • Clinical practices and trends in the management of the disease(s)
  • Industry structure including competitors (most still active today)
  • Detailed appendices on procedure data, company directories, etc.

Arguably, a least one quarter of every NEW medtech report contains background data encompassing the data listed above.  Therefore, the MedMarket Diligence reports have been priced in the single user editions at $950 each, which is roughly one quarter the price of a full report.

See links above for detailed report descriptions, tables of contents, lists of exhibits and ordering. If you have further questions, feel free to contact Patrick Driscoll at (949) 859-3401 or (toll free US) 1-866-820-1357.

See the comprehensive list of MedMarket Diligence reports at link.

 

Harsh questions for complex medtech

robotic_or_scalpelOn the one hand, as I track medical device technology development, I see the increasing trend toward a reduction in the complexity of approaches to accomplish therapeutic ends. The underlying force seems to be, “healthcare technology is expensive, so let’s minimize the technological complexity, minimize the invasiveness, reduce collateral damage, make treatments more specific to the resolution of symptoms and/or disease…” The result is that, for example, endoscopic surgery leads to laparoscopic surgery, which leads to single port laparoscopic surgery, which leads to natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery, potentially competing in its minimally invasiveness against alternatives like transcatheter interventional procedures — even for procedures like cardiac valve repair or replacement or coronary artery bypass grafting.

Then, on the other hand, I see technological development moving in the entirely opposite direction of increasing complexity with developments like robotic surgical systems, intraoperative imaging and others, all of which raise the question as to whether we are simply developing technologies for technology’s sake. Do these increasingly complex technologies provide a clinical endpoint not achievable with alternative technologies, or more importantly, procedural approaches? Certainly, I think that technologies that enable a surgeon to perform a procedure that he otherwise simply could not perform, such as those involving the use of intraoperative imaging technologies that enable the surgeon to see healthy versus pathological tissues and differentiate his actions accordingly can arguably result in a better clinical outcome. And as part of this process, one must consider the cost of the accompanying technology such as imaging systems.

Accordingly, when one considers the range of different complex robotic surgical technologies on the market or under development, one has to ask whether these systems truly allow the performance of procedures that the average, well-trained surgeon could not perform without that technology. Certainly, there are complex surgical procedures, such as delicate neuro procedures that, if not performed with extremely precise accuracy, might result in serious collateral damage. But hernia repair? Appendectomy? Colon resection? Hysterectomy? Some of these fairly high-volume procedures have indeed been presented as justification for the enormous expenditure needed to acquire robotic surgical systems.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it seems incumbent upon healthcare systems to critically evaluate the cost/benefit of new technology, given the limited resources in healthcare.

For this reason, it does not surprise me in the least that recent reports of complications or, in the least, device problems associated with the use of Intuitive Surgical’s robotic systems have promptly led to a precipitous decline in that company’s stock value. If a technology can’t enable the performance of a procedure that otherwise could not be performed, then its value is in question. Further, if the technology cannot perform a procedure flawlessly, and without complication or error that can arguably be performed without that technology, then its value is seriously in question.

Clinical Applications of $11.5 Billion Ablation Technologies Market Mapped

The performance of surgery has undergone a steady evolution over the past 40 years, moving from procedures employing scalpels and sutures to procedures employing a dizzying number of product types — reusables/disposables, devices/biologics/hybrids, percutaneous/endo-laparoscopic, real-time MRI and other image-guidance and the whole spectrum of devices and equipment in the $11.5 billion ablation technology market.  This last field harnesses the capabilities of instruments differentiated largely by energy type to therapeutically treat tissue by destruction, excision, sealing and other means.

For reference, a dictionary definition of tissue ablation is “the removal of a body part or the destruction of its function, as by surgery, disease, or a noxious substance.” From a device/instrumentation standpoint (as opposed to, for example, chemically-based ablation), ablation is the therapeutic destruction and sealing of tissue or creation of other therapeutic effect in tissue. The predominant forms of device-based ablation technologies include:

  • Electrical
  • Radiation
  • Light
  • Radiofrequency
  • Ultrasound
  • Cryotherapy
  • Thermal (other than cryotherapy)
  • Microwave
  • Hydromechanical

While the tissue effects produced by these different modalities have potential for use in virtually all clinical applications, their emerging use is concentrated in a fairly well defined but detailed list.  The largest share of the market for energy-based ablation devices, driven to a significant extent by its long history in clinical practice, is in cancer therapy, primarily via radiation therapy. General surgical applications represent the next most common use of ablation technologies, especially those using electrocautery and electrosurgical devices, radiofrequency ablation and cryotherapy, etc. Cardiovascular applications then represent the next most active area of ablation technologies, especially given the often acute nature of cardiovascular disease.

Most of the universe of ablation technology clinical applications is illustrated in the map, below.

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC (Report #A145)

Medical and surgical sealants/adhesives clinical indications

Medical/surgical sealants and adhesives are being adopted in a large and growing number of procedures.  Sutures, clips and staples, by comparison, hold a large share of procedure volume and are stubborn to give ground against sealants and adhesives.  There is no doubt, however, that the relatively higher growth rates for the novel closure products are steadily eroding the century-long hold dominance of sutures in wound closure.

Below are illustrated selected (the full list including "Others" is given in Report #S190) procedural indications for sealants and adhesives by clinical area,

 

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Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S190.