Blog Articles

FDA to Create New Digital Health Unit

The FDA has announced that it will create a new unit responsible for overseeing digital health products.  According to Bakul Patel, the Associate Center Director for Digital Health at FDA, the agency is working to define “what clinical validation looks like for software,” and will consider creating new premarket approval or clearance procedures for digital health products.

As Patel stated in an interview with Wired, the new unit will aim to keep up with emerging technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to diagnose and treat patients.  Patel noted that this kind of technology creates new and difficult challenges for regulators, who must figure out how to ensure that patients remain safe while keeping up with the increasing complexity and tighter release schedules that these new kinds of software bring.

“We’ve been trying to translate the current regulation paradigm for digital . . . [b]ut what we have today and what we’re going to have tomorrow are not really translatable. We need to take the blinders off, start with a clean sheet of paper.” –Bakul Patel, Associate Center Director for Digital Health, FDA

Wired reports that Patel is working to develop new models for testing and approving digital health products.  Patel told Wired that “the idea is to get safe products to market faster, by having people compete on excellence rather than compliance.”  One way the FDA might do this is by providing faster review with lower scrutiny for manufacturers with a long track record of safety and compliance.

According to FierceHealthcare that the new digital health unit will be part of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  While the new unit won’t be officially open until October, hiring of key staff is underway.  Wired notes that the unit will be funded by the Medical Device User Fee program.

Medtronic’s Recent Interactions with the FDA

It has been a busy couple of months between Medtronic and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with Medtronic experiencing both recalls and approvals from the government agency.  Below is a brief summary of some recent of Medtronic’s recent interactions with the  FDA.

First, in early April, the FDA announced that Medtronic was notifying customers of a voluntary field corrective action for its Newport HT70 and HT70 Plus ventilators over the potential for unexpected shutdowns, which it believes are due to software issues in the devices.  MassDevice reports that is recalling well over 7,000 of the affected devices.

Next, the FDA cautioned healthcare providers against using Medtronic’s NavLock Tracker with instruments not cleared to be used with the device.  The NavLock Tracker is an accessory to Medtronic’s StealthStation navigation system for use during spinal fusions.  As a result, Medtronic is updating its labels on the devices to indicate that only Medtronic instruments should be used.

In early May, Medtronic received official FDA approval for a new drug-eluting stent (DES) known as Resolute Onyx.  According to FierceBiotech, the stent is formed from a single strand of a cobalt alloy wire with a platinum-iridium core and can provide physicians with stent sizes up to 4.5-mm and 5.0-mm.  This newly approved stent is available for use in the United States, Europe, and countries that recognize the Conformité Européene (CE) mark.

In addition, Pat Shrader, Medtronic’s Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs, appeared on Capital Hill to request changes in device manufacturing facility inspections by government officials due to the short notice that the manufacturing facilities receive prior to inspection.  Shrader was speaking on behalf of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, which includes other companies such as 3M, St. Jude Medical, and Boston Scientific.  Ms. Shrader called for standardization of inspections by the FDA.

FDA Approves Bayer’s myBETAapp™

On May 30, 2017, Bayer announced FDA approval of a supplemental Biologics License Application for Bayer’s myBETAapp™ and BETACONNECT Navigator™.  The myBETAapp joins the growing field of medical mobile applications, which the FDA predicts will reach 1.7 billion smartphone or tablet users by 2018.

According to Bayer, the myBETAapp connects their BETACONNECT autoinjector (for delivering BETASERON®, a therapeutic agent for multiple sclerosis) to a patient’s mobile device or computer, and the BETACONNECT Navigator functions as a tool to view data uploaded by the myBETAapp.

According to the myBETAapp user instructions, the application will:

  • Display scheduled injections according to an injection routine
  • Allow the user to determine when an injection is scheduled
  • Display suggested injection sites based on the injection sites shown in the prescribing information for BETASERON®
  • Display a monthly calendar of recorded, missed, and scheduled injections
  • Transfer and sync data recorded by the autoinjector to the corresponding injection in the calendar
  • Send a notice to record injection data to the patient via email

In the press release, Bayer describes the myBETAapp and BETACONNECT Navigator as allowing further connection between the patient and the healthcare team by, with the patient’s permission, providing access to the patient’s injection history. The application is also advertised as providing further connectivity to a BETA Nurse for patients enrolled in BETAPLUS®, Bayer’s patient support program.

According to Dr. Kantor, President Emeritus, Florida Society of Neurology:

The myBETAapp and BETACONNECT Navigator work cohesively together to support communication and connection between people living with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and their BETA Nurse and health care team.

Bayer reports that the myBETAapp will be available for free download from the Apple app store, Google Play Store, or Betaseron.com by mid-July 2017.

 

ECRI Institute Releases Guidance on How to Protect Your Medical Device Systems

The ECRI Institute released new guidance in its article: “Ransomware Attacks: How to Protect Your Medical Device Systems” on May 18, 2017.  The report recommends various protective actions for hospitals to take and points to critical differences in the protection of medical device systems as opposed to general hospital systems.

According to the report, ransomware makes data, software, and IT assets unavailable to users.  The report describes ransomware as using the encryption of data to hold systems hostage, where the hacker promises to give the victims access to their data if a ransom is paid.  One previous ransomware example reported on the Knobbe Medical Device Blog was the WannaCry virus, a ransomware that caused disruptions for several hospitals in the United Kingdom.  The International Business Times reported that security researchers had found that the WannaCry ransomware was not limited to computers but also capable of exploiting medical devices.

The ECRI Institute report explains that an IT department can use new security patches for some medical device systems; however, some systems will remain susceptible because they are based on an older version of an operating system and can’t be upgraded or they have not been validated for clinical use with the latest security patches. 

The report includes a list of dos and don’ts for quickly responding to emerging threats.  The “Dos” mentioned in the report include:

  • Identify medical devices, servers or workstations that may be affected.
  • Contact the device vendor. 
  • Request written copies of the manufacturer’s recommended actions for dealing with a current ransomware threat. 

The “Don’ts” mentioned in the report include:

  • Don’t overreact.
  • Don’t install unvalidated patches.  Unvalidated patches can make medical devices faulty or inoperable.  Ask the manufacturer for documentation of the validation.

The ECRI Institute is a nonprofit organization that has its U.S. headquarters in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.

Boston Scientific closes acquisition of TAVI device company, Symetis

On March 30, 2017, Boston Scientific announced an agreement to acquire Symetis SA, a privately-held Swiss company focused on minimally-invasive transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) devices, for $435 million in cash.

The acquisition expands Boston Scientific’s structural heart portfolio and Symetis will join the Boston Scientific Interventional Cardiology division. According to the press release, Boston Scientific will begin selling the ACURATE TA™ and ACURATE neo™/TF™ valve systems in Europe and in other geographies outside of the United States.

ACURATE valves are marketed as replacement valves delivered via a transcatheter percutaneous delivery system.  As noted in the press release, the ACURATE valves along with Boston Scientific’s LOTUS Valve System platform “are designed to treat patients suffering from severe and symptomatic aortic valve stenosis, who are considered at high risk for surgical valve replacement.” As stated on the Symetis website with reference to the ACURATE TA™ valve system

“[t]he most distinctive aspects of the bioprosthesis design are the self-seating and self-sealing features that allow for optimal positioning of the valve, promote sealing, and reduce paravalvular leak. Combined with the two-step deployment technique of the delivery system, these properties provide outstanding ease-of-use throughout the procedure.”

The ACURATE neo™/TF™ valve system is described as including the same self-seating and self-sealing features and stepped deployment technique.

The executive vice president and global chief medical officer of Boston Scientific, Ian Meredith, M.D., stated:

“Adding the ACURATE family of valve products to our structural heart portfolio presents us with the opportunity to provide two distinctly different but complementary TAVI platforms enabling implanting physicians and hospitals to treat the broadest range of patients and aortic valve anatomies.”

Researchers Announced A New Implantable Energy Storage System Powered By The Patient’s Body

UCLA announced that scientists from UCLA and University of Connecticut designed a new form of energy storage for powering implantable medical devices that do not require a battery.  According to the announcement, this design makes it possible for implantable medical devices to be powered by a patient’s own body.

The announcement notes that many powered implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers, contain traditional batteries, which limit the lifespan of a device to the lifespan of the battery.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the battery of a pacemaker typically lasts five to 15 years, and needs to be replaced by surgery when it runs out. According an editorial in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), “[o]ver half of all patients with pacemakers require a replacement procedure because the batteries have reached their expected life. Some 11-16% need multiple replacements.”  Moreover, the article notes that batteries make the implantable device bulky and contain toxic chemicals, which can be harmful to the patient if they leak.

According to UCLA, the new energy storage system is called a biological supercapacitator, which operates on electrolytes in the patient’s body, for example, in blood and urine, and eliminates the need for a traditional battery in an implantable medical device.  The researchers state that the biological supercapacitator can be combined with “an energy harvester” to also convert heat and motion of the patient into electricity to be captured by the supercapacitator.

Although the announcement states that supercapacitators are currently not widely used in implantable device technology, Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the study, commented:

In order to be effective, battery-free pacemakers must have supercapacitors that can capture, store and transport energy, and commercial supercapacitors are too slow to make it work.  Our research focused on custom-designing our supercapacitor to capture energy effectively, and finding a way to make it compatible with the human body.

More details of the research team’s design can be found in a paper recently published in Advanced Energy Material.

Philips Buys RespirTech for Undisclosed Amount

Dutch conglomerate Philips recently announced that it will purchase Respiratory Technologies Inc. (RespirTech). According to its website, RespirTech describes itself as a St. Paul, Minnesota-based provider of inCourage vests, which help fight respiratory disease. According to a news release, the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RespirTech’s website states that the inCourage vest uses high-frequency chest compression to help loosen and move mucus through the lungs. According to RespirTech’s website, the inCourage technology was developed by Pediatric Pulmonologist Warren Warwick, M.D., and Leland Hansen, MPH, in the early 1990’s to provide more effective secretion clearance for University of Minnesota cystic fibrosis patients.

According to Philips’ website, the conglomerate has primary divisions in the areas of healthcare, lighting, and home electronics. Philips’ 2016 annual report states that sales in its HealthTech portfolio increased 4% and topped $19 billion. In contrast, news sources state that RespirTech was founded in 2004 and reportedly had nearly $37 million in revenue in 2015.

Regarding the acquisition, John Frank, Philips’ business leader for sleep and respiratory care, said in a news release:

With this transaction, we will broaden our portfolio with a proven therapy to enable patients with chronic respiratory disorders manage their condition and receive the care they need in the home.

According to Philips’ CEO, Franz van Houten, Philips has transformed itself over the last five years into a differentiated global health tech leader. Mr. van Houten stated that the markets Philips’ serve have attractive growth and attractive profitability. According to news sources, GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthineers, and Toshiba Medical Systems are other conglomerate divisions competing with Philips in the healthcare space.

As one analyst notes, the Twin Cities have produced a number of competing companies that make vests for treating lung conditions, including New Prauge-based ElectroMed Inc., and St. Paul-based Hill-Rom.

Former Lutonix VP Pleads Guilty to Trade Secret Theft

On May 9, 2017, according to court records, Christopher Barry, former Vice President of R&D at Lutonix Inc., pled guilty to stealing Lutonix’s trade secrets in the form of several confidential electronic files.  According to the Plea Agreement, the allegedly stolen files relate to Lutonix’s proprietary design and manufacture of drug coated balloons, in particular the Lutonix 035 DCB.  The Plea Agreement stated that sales for the Lutonix 035 DCB, depicted below, exceeded $50 million in 2015.

The factual background provided in the Plea Agreement reports that, following his departure from Lutonix, Barry took a position as CEO of Urotronic, a medical device startup developing its own drug-coated balloon.  According to the Plea Agreement, Barry disclosed the contents of the purportedly stolen files to others at Urotronic.  However, according to news articles, following entry of Barry’s guilty plea, Urotronic denied that Barry had any involvement in the development of the Urotronic technology.

FDA Approves “First-of-its-kind” Infant Medical Device

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized the use of what it described as a “first-of-its-kind” medical device to treat infants for a birth defect called esophageal atresia, in which the upper esophagus is disconnected from the lower esophagus and the stomach. According to the FDA, babies with this condition require a feeding tube until surgery can be performed to connect the esophagus to the stomach.

According to Cook Medical, its pediatric esophageal atresia anastomosis device, called Flourish™, uses magnets to pull the upper and lower esophagus together, closing the gap and allowing food to enter the stomach. Dr. Mario Zaritzky, a pediatric radiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center and one of the joint inventors listed on the patent on this technology (U.S. Patent No. 9,168,041), states:

“The idea was to create a minimally invasive procedure that could possibly be an alternative to surgery in selective pediatric cases. Any procedure that can potentially replace major thoracic surgery with a less invasive method should be considered before deciding to go to the operating room.”

Cook Medical’s press release notes that each of the 16 infant patients treated using this device had a successful joining of their esophagus with no remaining gap, within 3‑10 days after receiving the device.

According to the Cook Group, Cook Medical is a company that engages in “medical research and product development in minimally invasive medical device technology for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.”

Intellectual Property Cases Dominate 2016 Verdict Awards

According to the annual Top 100 Verdicts report by ALM’s VerdictSearch, five jury verdicts for Intellectual Property cases cracked the top 10 with a sixth breaking into the top 25 verdicts of 2016. While the amounts do not account for judicial reductions, offsets or appeals, the report indicates that the more than $4.67 billion in total jury awards from the top 6 IP verdicts alone show that intellectual property cases dominated the Top 100 in terms of total dollars awarded.

The publication ranked Idenix‘s $2.54 billion royalty share of Gilead Sciences‘ profits from two blockbuster hepatitis C drugs as the #1 IP verdict and #3 overall on its list of “Top 100 Verdicts of 2016.” According to the report, Idenix successfully asserted that Gilead willfully infringed Idenix’s patents relating to an antiviral compound used in the treatment of hepatitis C, resulting what commentators have stated is the largest patent infringement verdict in U.S. history.

The second highest IP verdict in VerdictSearch’s 2016 list, $940 million (including $700 million in punitive damages), went to medical software company Epic Systems in what commentators have said is one of the largest trade-secrets verdicts on record. According to the report, Epic successfully asserted that Tata misappropriated information related to Epic’s health care software.

The #3 and #4 IP verdicts of 2016 according to VerdictSearch, $625 million and $302 million, respectively, went to technology patent-holder VirnetX for infringement of four of VirnetX’s internet security patents infringement by several Apple products, including iPhones and iPads.

Merck won the 5th largest IP verdict of the year according to VerdictSearch, a $200 million award against Gilead. The report noted that Gilead Sciences v. Merck & Co. involved infringement of different patents relating to the same drug compound as the Idenix case. The case was filed by Gilead as a declaratory judgment action, but Merck & Co. won on its counterclaim.

CardiAQ‘s $70 million win in CardiAQ Valve Technologies, Inc. v. Neovasc Inc. was listed in VerdictSearch as the #6 IP verdict and tied for #21 overall. As noted in a previous post here, according to the report, the jury found that Neovasc breached the non-disclosure agreement between the parties, misappropriated CardiAQ’s trade secrets, and breached its duty of honest performance to CardiAQ.

According to the report, the 11 IP verdicts in the top 100 totaled approximately $4.8 billion, more than a threefold increase from 2015, when the total was $1.43 billion.

 

Confirm Rx: Abbott Receives CE Mark for Smartphone Compatible ICM

Abbott recently announced the CE Mark and first use of what it claims is “the world’s first smartphone compatible” insertable cardiac monitor (ICM), as reported by a press release dated May 8, 2017.

According to the press release, Abbott produces the Confirm RxTM ICM, which is marketed as the slimmest ICM available. Pictured on the right, Abbott states that the Confirm RxTM is designed to continuously monitor a patient’s heart rhythm and proactively transmit information via the myMerlinTM mobile app, thereby allowing physicians to follow their patients remotely and ICMaccurately diagnose arrhythmias.  As noted on the Confirm RxTM webpage, the ICM is placed by a physician under local anesthesia by making a small incision in the pectoral region, inserting the ICM under the skin using an insertion tool, and then closing the incision. “Patients can record symptoms directly on their smartphone without the need for a bedside transmitter or separate activator,” said Georg Nölker, M.D. in prepared remarks.  Dr. Nölker was one of the first physicians to implant the Confirm Rx ICM after it received CE Mark approval.

According to Abbott, the myMerlinTM mobile app makes it easy for patients to stay connected to their physicians.  A listing of the product features from the Confirm RxTM product website includes:

  • Transmit nightly data reports automatically simply by being in range of the smartphone;
  • Manually record patient symptoms on their own smartphone and specify events such as fainting or if they experience a fast heart rate;
  • Confirm patient data was transmitted to their physician;
  • Automatic alerts when they have missed a scheduled transmission;
  • Offers secure transmission of patient data.

Mark D. Carlson, M.D., chief medical officer of Abbott’s cardiac arrhythmias and neuromodulation businesses, views these results as a step forward in ICM technology, stating:

Incorporating wireless technology directly into our devices enhances the quality of remote monitoring and patient compliance…The Confirm Rx ICM addresses a broad range of indications, such as syncope, palpitations and atrial fibrillation. The technology has been designed with robust data privacy and security measures to ensure peace of mind for both patients and providers.

Dr. Christopher Piorkowski, said to be one of the first physicians to implant the Confirm RxTM ICM, stated:

The Confirm Rx ICM will be particularly useful in monitoring for atrial fibrillation in my patients with paroxysmal AF, following AF ablation and with stroke of an unknown cause. It allows an objective way to quantify AF events to guide treatment decisions. The smartphone compatibility engages patients and allows better compliance to remote monitoring through a simple and intuitive user interface. This allows clinic staff to reduce follow-up burden and focus on reviewing transmitted data for AF.

As reported by the press release, the Confirm RxTM ICM is available in select European countries, with full European release expected during the second quarter of 2017.  It further states that the device is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

WannaCry Malware and Medical Device Security

The WannaCry virus has infected and frozen computers in many industries around the world.  According to a news source report, the virus has extorted doctors and hospital administrators for the keys to unlock and regain access to their systems in order to treat patients.  The Telegraph reports that in the United Kingdom alone, up to 40 hospital trusts were hit by the WannaCry ransomware virus, which resulted in a wave of cancelled appointments and a general state of disarray.  Recently, the BBC has stated that at least 16 of these hospitals are still facing issues.  With the widespread damage associated with the WannaCry virus, many experts have advocated that the medical device industry should be on alert, now more than ever, regarding the cyber security of their medical devices.

Although the issues associated with medical device security have recently been discussed, some industry professionals believe there does not seem to be an adequate solution to the problem of device security.  Tressa Springman, the CIO of LifeBridge Health, explains:

“There’s a lot of talk in healthcare about device security. Discussions about what we’re comfortable pushing as endpoint security and what we’re unable to do – because certainly, we don’t want to create any harm to patients.  Many of these devices and the vendors who manage them, it’s very hard to go direct on patching and adding security.”

While medical devices are generally tested extensively for safety, some cybersecurity experts have observed the same cannot necessarily be said for security.  Brian NeSmith, co-founder and CEO of cyber security company Arctic Wolf Networks, has stated:

“Medical devices, similar to many other IoT devices, were not designed with rigorous security in mind and are more vulnerable to being hacked. They also do not fall under normal security operations procedures since they are used as needed by the medical practitioners and not deployed and maintained by the IT department.”

Security experts are emphasizing the importance of security patches.  Optimistically, Richard Staynings, the principal cybersecurity healthcare leader at Cisco’s Security unit, believes:

“This is going to cause a paradigm shift, at least for patching.”

INC Research Merges with inVentiv Health Creating a $7.4B Combined Entity

According to press releases, INC Research Holdings, Inc. has agreed to merge with inVentiv Health, creating a combined company having an enterprise value of approximately $7.4 billion. The press release further notes that the combined company will be the second largest biopharmaceutical outsourcing provider, one of the top 3 contract research organizations and the largest contract commercial organization by net revenue.

In other news, INC Research was recently recognized for its cybersecurity awareness training at the 5th annual CSO50 Conference + Awards event held on May 1–3.  The CSO50  recognizes 50 organizations for security projects that demonstrate “outstanding business value and thought leadership” and are selected through a nomination and review process each year by a team of security experts and academics.  CSO is an online publisher focusing on information security, physical security, business continuity, identity and access management, and loss prevention.

According to its website, INC Research is a contract research organization that provides clinical development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries.  With more than 6,000 employees across 110 countries, over 100 client audits a year, and access to sensitive medical information by most employees, INC Research was tasked with providing adequate and efficient cybersecurity training—in addition to many other internal training programs.

The award-winning program it developed was said to save over 3,500 hours of disruptive training time.  According to news sources, INC Research’s security program focused on frequency of training communications, as opposed to a single one-hour yearly session.  Its program used two 15-minutes trainings per year, quarterly two-minute training videos and regular contacts with employees using the company’s intranet and email systems to reinforce cybersecurity principles.

Other honorees included AstraZeneca, Beebe Healthcare, Celgene Corporation, the FDA, and Health Management Systems.

Becton Dickinson to Acquire C. R. Bard for $24 Billion

Becton Dickinson (“BD”) recently announced an agreement to acquire C.R. Bard for $24 billion in cash and stock. The transaction remains subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals, but is expected to close in the fall of 2017.

Both BD and Bard are century-old (BD was founded in 1897 and Bard was founded in 1907) medical device companies based in northern New Jersey.  Bard offers devices for vascular medicine, urology, oncology and surgery, whereas BD provides syringes and infusion products, including those for diabetes management, and products for collecting and transporting diagnostic specimens.  According to BD, Bard will expand BD’s focus on the treatment of disease states beyond diabetes to include peripheral vascular disease, urology, hernia and cancer.

The agreement to acquire Bard follows BD’s 2015 acquisition of San Diego-based CareFusion Corp. for $12 billion.  The acquisition of CareFusion expanded BD’s product offerings to include devices used for administering and managing medication.  Regarding its acquisition of Bard, Vincent Forlenza, Chairman and chief executive officer of BD states:

Combining with Bard will accelerate our ability to offer more comprehensive, clinically relevant solutions to customers and patients around the globe…We expect the transaction to contribute meaningfully to BD’s plans for revenue growth and margin expansion, and generate outstanding value both near- and long-term for shareholders.

Additionally, BD says the acquisition of Bard which registered approximately 500 products internationally in 2016 will accelerate the company’s growth in emerging markets outside of the U.S., including $1 billion in annual revenue in China.  Tim Ring, Bard’s chairman and chief executive officer explains that: “our fast-growing portfolio in emerging markets can significantly benefit from their well-established international commercial infrastructure.”

Johnson & Johnson’s Codman Neuro Announces Acquisition of Neuravi

Codman Neuro, part of Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Synthes business unit, recently announced its acquisition of Neuravi Ltd., a privately-held Irish medical device company, for an undisclosed amount.  The Irish Times reported that the acquisition is the largest price paid for a European venture-backed medtech company since Medtronic’s $700 million buyout of CoreValve in 2009.  According to its website, Neuravi focuses on neurointervention therapies for acute stroke treatment.

Neuravi’s sale to Codman Neuro comes after several rounds of fundraising, in which Neuravi secured tens of millions of dollars for the development and commercializing of its EmboTrap Revascularization Device.  Neuravi explains that the EmboTrap Revascularization Device is a thrombectomy system designed to restore blood flow to the brain by capturing and removing blood clots.  EmboTrapIn a 2016 press release, Neuravi CEO Eamon Brady quoted the most recent investment of $16.7 million as important for building a commercial presence in the U.S. and cited the “opportunity due to the under-developed stroke treatment ‘toolbox’ available to stroke clinicians today.”  The EmboTrap devices are now commercially available in Europe and are currently undergoing clinical trials in the U.S.  Speaking to the Irish Times regarding Neuravi’s acquisition, Justin Lynch, a partner of one of Neuravi’s early institutional investors, said:

This is a company that has knocked the ball out of the park. They have beaten every milestone, earlier and with less money that budgeted, which is almost unheard of in this business.

Neuravi’s revascularization devices appear to have successfully caught the attention of Codman Neuro.  Shlomi Nachman, Company Group Chairman of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions recently stated:

Rapid restoration of flow is of utmost importance when treating stroke patients . . . .  The EmboTrap platform was designed to address this critical need and we are excited to combine Neuravi’s expertise in clot research with Codman Neuro’s global resources to accelerate innovation in acute ischemic stroke treatment.

Codman Neuro describes its portfolio as including medical devices for hydrocephalus management, neuro intensive care and cranial surgery, and endovascular treatment of cerebral aneurysms and stroke, including aneurysm coils and vascular reconstruction devices.

Shortly before Codman Neuro’s acquisition of Neuravi, Integra Lifesciences announced that it plans to purchase Codman from Johnson & Johnson for $1.05 billion.  Integra explained that it intends the acquisition to expand Integra’s international presence.  Integra markets products in orthopedic extremity surgery, neurosurgery, and reconstructive and general surgery, including wound repair.  According to Integra’s press release,  Codman Neuros’ neurosurgery business generated $370 million in 2016 from the sale of neuro-critical care and electrosurgery devices.  Johnson & Johnson reported to Reuters that the deal with Integra excludes its neurovascular and drug delivery businesses.

Boston Scientific Announces Worldwide EMBLEM™ Study

Boston Scientific recently announced that it is launching a worldwide study for its EMBLEM™ MRI Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (S-ICD) device.  According to the press release, a multicenter trail of the device will focus on a group of patients who are above 65 years old with a history of prior heart attack, diabetes, and moderately reduced left ventricular ejection fraction, considered to be at higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest but unsuitable for implantable cardiac defibrillators. The study, according to Boston Scientific, is designed to evaluate whether the company’s EMBLEM MRI S-ICD System improves the survival rate in the target group of patients in comparison to patients continuing with their present treatment. Boston Scientific indicates that it is also seeking parallel approvals for a new indication from the FDA and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services for use of the device in treating the target group of patients.

Commenting on the study, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer of Global Health Policy and Rhythm Management Dr. Kenneth Stein, stated:

“In addition to the knowledge we hope to gain from this population of patients with diabetes, we are excited for the opportunity to improve the broad applicability of the [multicenter] trial results by increasing the enrollment of women in this study. Moreover, the trial emphasizes our continued commitment to expanding access to all patients who may benefit from this proven technology.”

Dr. Valentina Kutyifa, principal investigator and research assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, also stated:

“Our hypothesis is that the S-ICD device may reduce all-cause mortality in this high-risk cohort of cardiac patients with diabetes. The value of eliminating unnecessary patient complications by implanting a defibrillator which does not require intracardiac leads was an important factor in our decision to utilize the S-ICD device when designing this trial.”

Boston Scientific previously reported acquiring the S-ICD technology from Cameron Health in 2012.

NeuroTronik Closes $23.1 million Series B Round

neurotronik_logoNeuroTronik, a North Carolina based subsidiary of NeuroTronik LTD of Dublin, announced that it recently closed a $23.1 million Series B funding round. The press release noted that the round was led by contributions from Boston Scientific, Synergy Life Science Partners, and several venture capital firms.  NeuroTronik was quoted in the release as aiming to improve patient outcomes, shorten hospital stays, and reduce hospital recidivism rates.

 

According to NeuroTronik, the therapy, known as CANS Therapy, utilizes a neuromodulation device designed to stimulate the cardiac autonomic nerve via a catheter. NeuroTronik describes the device as less invasive than currently used implantable defibrillators, providing an alternative to drug-based treatments. According to the company, NeuroCatheterTM is temporarily placed in a vein just above the heart and is controlled via an external NeuroModulatorTM that can be positioned bedside.

“Physicians need better therapy tools to treat Acute Heart Failure in the hospital. With the achievement of our Series A milestones and through subsequent work, our team has demonstrated that NeuroTronik CANS Therapy™ holds considerable promise to be a unique and valuable tool for physicians for use in this clinical setting,” said Fred McCoy, CEO and Director, NeuroTronik LTD in a prepared statement.

NeuroTronik stated that it plans to use the Series B funding to obtain regulatory approval to market its CANS Therapy device in Europe. After obtaining European approval, NeuroTronik plans to bring the treatment to the United States.

Previous news sources state that NeuroTronik closed a $13.1 million Series A round in May of 2013, and was spun out of a medical technology incubator called Synecor in 2012.

Medical Device Excise Tax Remains in Limbo

President Trump and Paul Ryan (R-Wis) have not yet successfully replaced the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act (“AHCA”).  The medical device industry had been paying particular attention to the proposed reform because the 2.3% excise tax that was suspended for 2016 and 2017 is scheduled to go back into effect on January 1, 2018. The tax, which has already required the payment of billions of dollars by device manufacturers, has an outsized impact because it is assessed on gross sales, not profits.

Scott Whitaker, president & CEO of AdvaMed, told MassDevice.com that:

The fight is far from over for repeal proponents. The trade lobby plans to continue its ‘aggressive’ push to capitalize on the bipartisan support for repealing the tax. We cannot allow this tax to be reimposed on a vibrant and innovative American industry and look forward to working with Congress and the administration to end this tax once and for all.

AdvaMed plans to huddle with longtime Capitol Hill supporters of repealing the tax, including Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Whitaker believes there are several options to make the excise tax go away permanently, including stand-alone legislation.  The Republican-controlled House has approved repeal of the excise tax four separate times in the past three years, including most recently in January 2017.  The repeal “is probably going to get put into a budget reconciliation that only needs a simple majority vote in the Senate,” said Steve Parente, a professor and director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota. According to Parente, proponents feel that this time around, the chances of passing such a bill are much better with a Republican controlled House, Senate, and Presidency.

Despite the setbacks, the medical device industry continues to lobby both sides of the KnobbeMedical Lobby Chart (2)aisle to fight the excise tax.  An estimated $158 million was spent on lobbying in Washington since 2012 by medical device manufactures, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonprofit group that tracks and reports on money’s impact in politics.  According to Opensecrets.org, in 2016 there was a reported $22.3 million spent on lobbying with more than $8 million have been spent on political campaigns.

Regardless of the failure of the AHCA bill, and the previous repeal legislation, news articles note that the medical device industry continues to look for supporters and ways to keep the excise tax suspended with potentially millions more being spent in lobbying this year.

 

 

Novartis’ Gilenya Patent Invalidated as Obvious

On April 12, 2017, the Federal Circuit affirmed the determination by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) that the claims of  U.S. Patent No. 8,324,283 (“the ’283 patent”) were invalid as obvious.

US Patent No. 8,324,283

According to public databases, Novartis AG is the assignee of the ’283 patent, directed to pharmaceutical compositions for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The ’283 patent, according to its abstract, relates to sphingosine-1 phosphate (S1P) receptor agonists and a sugar alcohol suitable for oral administration. According to its label, Gilenya acts by internalizing S1P receptors, which sequesters lymphocytes in the lymph node, to prevent relapse of multiple sclerosis. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Gilenya, approved in 2010, became the first oral disease-modifying drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce relapses and delay disability progression in patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. A Novartis website states that Gilenya had over $3 billion in sales in 2016.

Board Decision

According to the Federal Circuit Decision, Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited filed inter partes review (IPR) proceedings of the ’283 patent in 2014. The Board determined that the claims of the ’283 patent were invalid as obvious in its Final Written Decision of September 24, 2015. Novartis appealed the decision to the Federal Circuit, and the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision.

Federal Circuit Decision

According to the Federal Circuit’s decision, Novartis argued on appeal that the Board “erred in its motivation to combine analysis because it failed to read the prior art as a whole and overlooked critical evidence of . . . known disadvantages” of a claimed active ingredient. However, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s finding, concluding that “substantial evidence supports the Board’s finding that . . . a person of skill in the art would have been motivated to combine” the features of the cited art.

 

Testing of Jenex TherOZap™ Device Set to Begin

Luminar Media Group recently announced that, after completing development of a working prototype device, the Jenex Corporation has signed an agreement with the Techna Institute at the University Health Network to begin testing the TherOZap device’s efficacy against the West Nile and Zika viruses.

The Jenex Corporation describes itself as a progressive medical technology company involved in the creation of an array of dermatological medical device products.  Aside from TherOZap™, Jenex’s website indicates that it currently markets the Intercept CS device which is said to prevent cold sore outbreaks using the device’s thermal heat conductivity.

Jenex and the Techna Institute are developing a series of protocols for the initial testing of the TherOZap™ device.  Regarding the current stage of development of the device, Rob Fia, CEO of the Jenex Corporation, stated:

We are pleased to test our patent pending TherOZap™ technology against both the Zika and West Nile virus’ especially given the wide spread of the Zika virus around the world. Jenex has engaged a world-renowned lab to initiate testing of the technology to determine if it can be effective in inactivating the virus.  We look forward to providing an update on the initial results of the tests in the near future.