It seems like every big medical device company is working on a technology for renal denervation to treat high blood pressure.
Development and market availability of a therapy for hypertension (high blood pressure) is a big deal. Here are some facts about hypertension from the World Heart Federation:
- Globally, nearly one billion people have high blood pressure (hypertension); of these, two-thirds are in developing countries.
- Hypertension is one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide and the problem is growing; in 2025, an estimated 1.56 billion adults will be living with hypertension.
- Hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
- People with hypertension are more likely to develop complications of diabetes.
- 67 million American adults (31%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 American adults.
- 69% of people who have a first heart attack, 77% of people who have a first stroke, and 74% of people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a major risk factor for kidney disease.
- More than 348,000 American deaths in 2009 included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause.
- High blood pressure costs the nation $47.5 billion annually in direct medical expenses and$3.5 billion each year in lost productivity.
- About half (47%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
Hypertension is treated currently with drugs of course. According to a report from ADS Reports, the global market for antihypertensive drugs was $29.9 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach $33 billion in 2017. That’s a huge target for interventional therapy.
I wrote about Bellevue, WA-based Kona Medical a couple of weeks ago receiving a $10 million investment specifically earmarked for their market entry into China, obviously one of the biggest potential markets.
Kona recently announced interim results from two ongoing clinical trials. It reported an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 29 mmHg at 6 months in their first study and a three-month drop of 19.4 mmHg in the second study using a dosing pattern that reduced therapy time from 13 to three minutes.
Kona’s results are significant because its therapy is completely noninvasive. It uses high intensity focused ultrasound on the surface of the skin to deliver energy to ablate the renal nerves.
Other companies developing renal denervation technologies include St. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, and Medtronic. Each has chosen a different energy modality to deliver the therapy.
MedCityNews reports that St. Jude is using a multi-electrode catheter to deliver electrical energy to the renal nerve sites. The company reported results from a clinical study: at 18 months, 77 percent of the 46 patients treated with St. Jude’s technology, the EnligHTN system, had responded to therapy. St. Jude’s system total ablation time is about four minutes, according to a company statement.
The Boston Scientific therapy uses bipolar (electrical) energy to deliver therapy. After 12 months, the company reported a “clinically-meaningful decrease in office systolic blood pressure” in 85 percent of the 139 patients treated. The Boston Scientific therapy requires a brief 30-second treatment time.
Medtronic seems to have a head start in the market. In early 2011, it finalized its purchase of Ardian, a Silicon Valley startup that was working on a novel therapy for hypertension since 2003. The Medtronic RDN system therapy uses radio frequency energy delivered via a catheter to the renal arteries/nerves. Medtronic’s Symplicity renal denervation system has a CE mark and is commercially available outside the U.S. Medtronic has a number of completed and ongoing clinical studies, all of which have resulted in conclusions that the therapy is safe and effective.
Takeaways: New markets are one area where startups can compete on a level playing field with huge, multinational companies. They can be more nimble, take more risks, and can pivot when things don’t go according to plan. In the case of renal denervation, Kona seems to have a decided advantage with its noninvasive technology and treatment. Of course, Medtronic has a years-long head start and we all know the “best” technology doesn’t always prevail, right?