INSIDE CHINA: What new techs are catching the eye of China’s docs?

Clinica Medtech IntelligenceMichael Alper shares feedback on the hot interventional technology areas that Chinese doctors are looking into and the factors that impact the technology’s adoption within the clinical community.

March 2015: Inside China – What new techs are catching the eye of China’s docs?

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting for the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) in Atlanta, GA.  This is the largest meeting in the Interventional Radiology space and attracted people from all over the world including over thirty physicians from China.

The field of Interventional Radiology, credited as being established by Charles Dotter over fifty years ago, has been a huge source of innovation for the medical field in general and for the medical technology field specifically.

During this year’s SIR, several new exciting areas of research in the interventional radiology field were presented.  In thinking about the applicability of this new research to the Chinese market, I spoke with several Chinese physicians in attendance.

One of the most areas of interest to me was the research done out of Louisiana State University, Shreveport on “3D Printing Antibiotic and Chemotherapeutic Eluting Catheters and Constructs.”  3D printing has been a new technology that has been applied to the medical device field over the past few years.  3D printing has been used in construction of dental implants, splints and as well as several surgical cases utilizing 3D printed bone replacements including in the spine, the hip and the cranium.  In China, 3D spinal implants have already been implanted as part of a clinical trial for CFDA approval.

The research which came out of Shreveport was novel in that it was printing bioactive (Substance having an effect on, or causing a reaction in, the living tissue exposed to it – eg Drug Eluting Stents and Balloons, etc.) and resorbable 3D printed catheters and stents.

When I spoke with some Chinese physicians about this research, they agreed it was interesting but in terms of applicability to the Chinese market they had concerns about the additional cost in terms of the additional value this new technology provides.  They agreed that 3D printing technology was of great value in the orthopedic space, however they questioned whether the ability to print bioactive catheters and stents would warrant significantly higher costs in the Chinese market.

Interestingly the group brought up another technology which they had different perceptions on price/value and suitability to the Chinese market, specifically microspheres.  Microspheres have many different uses in the interventional space.  They can be used for embolization, drug delivery (localized chemotherapy) as well as localized radiation therapy.  Non-spherical particles can also be used for these therapies at a significantly lower cost.  The Chinese physicians seemed to think that the additional value provided by the microspheres related to embolization and drug delivery was not worth its much higher costs.  However using microspheres for radiation therapy (which is not yet approved in the Chinese market), they agreed that the clinical value was very clear and worth a significant premium over the alternatives.  This also probably had to do with the significant amount of research supporting this type of therapy that has recently been published including several papers presented at the meeting.

One other interesting hot area was related to a new interventional treatment for BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) called PAE (Prostate Artery Embolization).  Dr. Bagla from Alexandria Hospital in Virginia published the results of his study showing a significant reduction in side-effects for treating this disease which affects a huge percentage of men worldwide.  Though China has lower prevalence of BPH than in the US, there are tens of millions of men suffering from this disease which causes difficulties with the bladder and urination and in its severe form can lead to blockage and infection.

Apparently, navigating the prostate artery is quite challenging and requires significant skill.  In fact, Dr. Bagla is known for his use of the Magellan (a robot designed to support interventional procedures) to assist him in these procedures due to its ability to help navigate tortuous anatomies such as the prostate artery.  If PAE would require robotic surgery to be successful in China, than the cost of the procedure would be quite significant.  As BPH, is considered a quality of life disease, the question of price/value would be harder to justify from a physician perspective.  On the other hand, the disease affects a significantly large proportion of the population including a significant percentage that can afford and are used to idea of paying for expensive medical technology out of pocket.  The fact that some of the complications of traditional methods to treat BPH include urinary incontinence and impotence (and the popularity of Viagra in China) makes me think that there might be potential for this kind of procedure even if it requires the use of an expensive medical robot and could even be a driver for the adoption of robot technology in the interventional space in China.

When looking at new medical technology for the China market, the value of the product in relation to it’s cost as well as how well that value is communicated and accepted by Chinese physicians is paramount to the technology’s success in China.  Though Chinese physicians tend to be very excited and are willing to try out new technologies, they are sensitive to the needs of their patients and the overall economic environment in China when it comes to actual adoption.

On March 20, 2015, posted in: News by

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