Reading between the lines of a medical device company's sales & stock results

There's a section not to be missed in Christopher Snowbeck's piece, "Medtronic stock jolts upward after strong quarter," in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That section stated:

"Medtronic officials said they were disappointed by second-quarter sales of devices used to provide a spine treatment called kyphoplasty.

Medtronic spent $3.9 billion in 2007 to acquire a California company that manufactured products used in the procedure. But doctors' perceptions of the technology apparently were hurt by articles this summer in the New England Journal of Medicine that questioned the effectiveness of a similar treatment called vertebroplasty.

"We were negatively impacted by the recent vertebroplasty articles," Hawkins said during the conference call. "While our customers understand the value of (kyphoplasty) ... the negative vertebroplasty news impacted the perception of referring physicians." "

"Negative vertebroplasty news" indeed. Let's be clear: two separate studies in the New England Journal of Medicine reported there was no difference up to six months later for patients who actually had vetebroplasty and those who had a fake or placebo treatment instead. No better than fake.

At the time those studies were published, a physician friend wrote me this:

"The cynical view is that next week's segment will highlight why kyphoplasty (an alternative procedure for pretty much the same condition) is so much better than vertebroplasty and the segment will be based upon little or no evidence but rather a happy patient and "expert" doctor who attests to the great results of this new (and costly) technology."

And what difference does it make if - after all is said and done and the studies are in - a device manufacturer's customers understand the value of kyphoplasty?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on November 25, 2009 1:32 PM.

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