Bennett generator targets still-emerging BRS sales

June 16, 1993

Bennett X-ray hopes to continue its success in the export marketby developing a high-frequency generator specifically for theWorld Health Organization's Basic Radiological Systems (BRS) program.WHO is revising the device specifications for BRS. Bennett

Bennett X-ray hopes to continue its success in the export marketby developing a high-frequency generator specifically for theWorld Health Organization's Basic Radiological Systems (BRS) program.WHO is revising the device specifications for BRS. Bennett andPhilips Medical Systems were scheduled to submit designs basedon the new standard to the U.N. agency last week.

BRS began in the 1980s as a WHO effort to bring high-qualityradiography to developing countries at an affordable price (SCAN7/5/89). WHO developed a BRS standard intended to provide thebasis for a rugged, easy-to-operate system with superior imagequality. The standard is used by manufacturers to design BRS devices,which are then recommended to potential purchasers by WHO.

BRS has had trouble gaining acceptance in Third World countries,however. Sales of the devices have not come close to meeting estimatedneed. About 1000 units have been sold since the standard was firstpublished in 1985.

Part of the problem stems from the name of the program, whichseems to imply that BRS devices are not very sophisticated, saidDr. Thure Holm, senior consultant radiologist at the WHO CollaborationCentre in Lund, Sweden.

"When we chose (the term) Basic Radiography System, wewere being honest--but it was a poor name," Holm said. "Peoplein the Third World are afraid of basic. They don't want to startat the bottom, but at the top."

However, studies and tests have shown that BRS units matchthose of standard x-ray devices in image quality, Holm said. WHOis now promoting BRS as an x-ray system for the primary care level,appropriate for markets in developed countries such as privatepractices in the U.S.

"We would like to stress the primary care aspect of BRS,"Holm said. "The first x-ray machine that should be used isthis one."

TO OBTAIN INDUSTRY FEEDBACK on the new specifications, WHO scheduleda symposium at Lund University Hospital in southern Sweden lastweek. Representatives from Bennett X-ray, Italian device manufacturerMecall, Philips Medical Systems and Siemens-Elema were to presenttheir designs to WHO's Expert Advisory Committee on Basic RadiologicalSystems.

Bennett has designed a high-frequency generator based on apreliminary draft of the new specifications. Bennett's generatorwill be paired with an x-ray stand manufactured by Mecall, accordingto Scott Matovich, director of international sales and marketing.The Bennett-Mecall collaboration has not received a product name,Matovich said.

Philips' BRS offering based on the new specifications has beendubbed the Multi-Radiographic System (MRS). The Siemens-Elemaunit that will be demonstrated, Prime-X, has been in productionfor several years and has BRS approval, according to Holm.

The new specifications differ from the old ones in that theyrecommend that devices use multipulse generators. The new specsalso give countries more leeway in determining what size filmcassettes are used in BRS devices sold within their borders.

Like the earlier BRS design, the new specifications recommendthat the system be able to run off a remote power source suchas a battery or capacitor.

WHO will use manufacturer feedback from the meeting to furtherrefine the new specifications. The agency expects to publish thefinal version of the guidelines by September.

WHO still must overcome several other obstacles before it cangain wide acceptance of BRS. In addition to psychological discomfortwith the name of the systems, manufacturers have not aggressivelymarketed the products because they cost one-third the price ofstandard radiography systems.

"The x-ray vendor doesn't earn much (on BRS sales),"Holm said. "They can sell old stuff without making any effort."

BRS units cost between $30,000 and $70,000, according to Holm.

WHO is hoping to counteract such resistance through volume.Despite sluggish sales, demand for the systems is painfully realin developing nations, some of which have one radiologist forevery 10 million people. BRS units are simple enough to be usedby health-care professionals after one to three months of training,Holm said.

Mexico and Turkey have expressed interest in buying large ordersof about 2000 BRS units each, Holm said. The potential marketin China is even greater. Experts say the country will need 70,000BRS-type units in five years.

Bennett is aggressively pursuing these markets, according toMatovich. The company has placed a major emphasis on exportingand has experienced strong growth in international sales. Bennettrecently was awarded an "E" award by the Clinton administrationfor excellence in exporting. The award was based on growth inexport sales over the past several years.

"The BRS lends itself well to be the leader in world sales,"Matovich said. "It fits right into our production plans."