Hitachi halts R&D for new gamma cameras after signing distribution deal with ADAC

May 12, 1999

Company will sell and support existing nuclear medicine systemsHitachi Medical’s nascent drive to become a nuclear medicine powerhouse appears to have come to an end. The Tokyo company has decided to discontinue development and manufacturing

Company will sell and support existing nuclear medicine systems

Hitachi Medical’s nascent drive to become a nuclear medicine powerhouse appears to have come to an end. The Tokyo company has decided to discontinue development and manufacturing of next-generation gamma cameras, the vendor reported last week.

The news came several days after Hitachi announced a product distribution deal with ADAC covering the Japanese market. Under the terms of the agreement, Hitachi will become ADAC’s exclusive distributor in Japan, replacing the Milpitas, CA, company’s previous partner, Sumitomo Metal Industries. An ADAC spokesperson said the company agreed to the relationship with Hitachi because it was not satisfied with Sumitomo’s performance.

The new relationship raised questions about the status of Hitachi’s own gamma camera program. Hitachi manufactures several systems similar to those found in ADAC’s product line, such as variable-angle dual-head cameras. On May 6, Hitachi cleared up the picture by announcing that it would not pursue development and manufacturing of future models of gamma cameras.

“After considering its current position in the global nuclear medicine market, (Hitachi) has decided to concentrate its resources on next-generation development of core modality products, including MRI, radiography, CT, ultrasound, and medical information systems, including PACS,” the company said.

The move is a setback for a business that has a long history in nuclear medicine. Hitachi developed some of the first digital gamma cameras, which were originally sold in the U.S. by Summit Nuclear. Summit discontinued sales of the systems after it merged with Sopha Medical in 1995 to form SMV.

Hitachi began laying plans to reenter the U.S. market not long after the Summit relationship broke down. The company established a nuclear medicine business unit in Twinsburg, OH, with former Summit veteran Gary Enos at the helm.

Hitachi’s plans to jump back into the market raised eyebrows within the nuclear medicine community almost from the beginning, however. Although Hitachi’s technology has always been well respected, some industry watchers questioned whether the long-suffering nuclear segment needed another competitor. The slow pace of Hitachi’s progress didn’t help—three years after announcing its return to the market, Hitachi still has only a handful of gamma cameras installed in the U.S.

To its credit, Hitachi held back on a more aggressive product rollout in favor of marketing cameras with a full range of capabilities, including non-uniform attenuation correction and coincidence detection. In fact, Hitachi last month filed 510(k) applications with the Food and Drug Administration for these techniques.

Hitachi will continue to sell and support its existing product line, including SpectraDigital V250DSP, a variable-angle dual-detector system with digital detectors, and its SpectraDigital 3000ss workstation. The company will also commit engineering resources to developing upgrades for its installed base, and will make arrangements for a minimum of 10 years of spare parts supply.