Injectable Solutions for Joint and Back Pain
Injectable products that can alleviate pain and even reverse the disease process are on the horizon for treating degenerative orthopedic and spinal conditions, such as damaged articular joint cartilage and deteriorated spinal discs. With no available long-term treatment options for these conditions short of invasive surgical procedures like joint replacement or spinal fusion, injectable technologies that offer the possibility of being used upstream in the continuum of care are potential billion-dollar market opportunities. In fact, in a post health care reform environment, injectable therapies may prove to be the most cost-effective way for treating many degenerative conditions.
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While Zimmer continues to build its knee osteoarthritis early-intervention product line, most recently by acquiring Knee Creations LLC and its Subchondroplasty procedure, controversial new clinical practice guidelines have been released that recommend against the use of hyaluronic acid injections (viscosupplementation) for early knee OA.
The musculoskeletal sector continues to be bogged down by the economic downturn, and particularly hard hit is the industry’s largest segment: the $13 billion total joint market. Companies are now scouting out the next technology wave in orthopedics, and the record attendance at the recent International Cartilage Repair Society meeting may be one indication of where the action will be for some time to come.
Once considered the high flying segment of the musculoskeletal industry, the spine industry has finally hit a wall as procedure volumes stall, implant prices tumble, and payors push back on authorizing expensive operations for back pain such as spinal fusion. As economic woes heighten, hand in hand with persistent unemployment just as health care and regulatory reforms kick in, many left the North American Spine Society meeting in early October wondering where the bright spots are in this industry.