Pulmonology: The Next Interventional Cardiology
This article was originally published in Start Up
Pulmonologists, a group of device-friendly physicians without many tools at their disposal, treat large diseases with unmet needs like emphysema, asthma, and lung cancer. They thus represent an attractive, untapped market for medical device companies. Many companies targeting emphysema have been formed by executives from the interventional cardiology industry and aim to follow the tried and true path of that industry, of introducing new minimally-invasive versions of open surgical predicate procedures. Others are following the tougher route of working in diseases like asthma, for which no device predicates exist. Companies hope to offer high volume procedures that will grow interventional pulmonology from a niche specialty treating end-stage cancer patients to a specialty that routinely performs millions of procedures on patients with non-malignant diseases that are currently poorly managed by drugs.
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Nearly a decade into the race to arm pulmonologists with interventional tools to treat emphysema, no clear winner is emerging. Emphasys, which had led the pack in developing a bronchial valve, hit a potential roadblock at the FDA. The question is whether competitors can fill the gap.