Publication date: Sep 08, 2019
Last year was a boom time in the multibillion-dollar market for implantable medical devices that use electricity to treat chronic pain, and no wonder – public concern over the opioid abuse epidemic was piquing strong interest in nonaddictive long-term therapies for pain relief.
The four biggest makers of devices that deliver electric stimulation to the spinal cord to interfere with pain signals have seen quarterly sales growth in that market stall or even decline this year.
Executives at large manufacturers with big local operations like Medtronic, Abbott Laboratories, and Boston Scientific, as well as smaller companies around the country focusing solely on neuromodulation, have offered many theories for the stall, from a lack of new product launches to reluctance from insurers.
Medtronic, run from offices in Fridley, is the industry pioneer and remains a dominant player, with its neuromodulation devices for pain comprising more than $1. 2 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ended last April.
All of those sales figures include other neuromodulation devices beyond just spinal-cord stimulators for chronic pain, making the market fairly -opaque,” in the words of Nevro CEO Keith Grossman.
Nevro is a California-based company that exclusively makes neuromodulation devices, and sold more than $375 million worth of them last year.
Despite declining sales growth, no one in the industry believes that demand for the devices is declining among the people who could get them to treat conditions like chronic severe back pain and diabetic neuropathy.
BMO Capital Markets surveyed physicians who implant the devices earlier this year, and came away with a positive view of the neuromodulation market, giving an outperform rating to Abbott, Boston, Medtronic and California’s Nevro.
The North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS), an industry trade group based in Chicago, said last year in a letter that the AP article provided -a mischaracterized account” of the therapy by overlooking positive results and omitting medical details from the negative accounts highlighted in the article.
A Medtronic spokeswoman noted that, when sales of SCS devices were growing, hospitals and clinics built up a surplus of products in their stockrooms and -the slowdown of the market has left some customers with product still on shelf and implants occurring more slowly. “
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