Ekos, Enduring Tough Year for Devices, Sticks With Goal to Break Even Next Year

11/30/09Follow @xconomy

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the purchasing process, which caused Ekos to fall short of its internal sales projections, he says.

But there are reasons for optimism, Hubert says. Doctors are starting to come around to the idea that they need to get more aggressive about interventional therapies against deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs), because of the long-term consequences patients suffer when they go untreated, Hubert says. The condition affects more than 250,000 people in the U.S. each year, and it’s not considered life-threatening, although associated blood clots that break off and enter the lungs are thought to kill 100,000 people a year. Most patients with deep vein thrombosis live with secondary effects, like varicose veins, leg pain, heaviness, or ulcers. About one in 10 patients with the disease currently get interventional treatment in the hospital, Hubert says.

How can Ekos prove that the health care system can actually save money in the long term by paying $2,700 for the firm’s disposable ultrasound catheters, plus clot-busting drugs, and the valuable time of medical personnel?

Ekos says that hospitals can make money on the Medicare reimbursement rates they get for using its technology, but the company isn’t sponsoring any long-term clinical trial that might show the health system really saves money with fewer long-term complications and hospitalization bills. The company’s technology is, however, being tested in a big trial called ATTRACT, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. That $10 million study will monitor 692 patients for two years after they get one of several different interventional treatments. It will probably take three years to fully enroll the patients, Hubert says.

Even without that kind of comparative data which might help Ekos stand out against competitors like Covidien’s Santa Clara, CA-based Bacchus Vascular unit, or Warrendale, PA-based Medrad, Ekos has started to benefit from word of mouth from physicians who have had experience with its product, Hubert says.

Ekos knows this partly because it is getting orders from resident physicians who trained somewhere on the EkoSonic system, and want to buy one for themselves as they establish their own practices, Hubert says. As opposed to cold-calling on doctors who’ve never heard of the technology, like all companies have to do with a new product, “we’re in the phase of growth where we’re now getting calls from physicians,” Hubert says. “We’re really entering the second wave.”

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