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Merck's Fosamax boosts sales for smaller bone densitometry firms


Osteoporosis drug raises all corporate boatsLunar and Hologic aren't the only firms benefiting from increasedinterest in bone densitometry. The same good news that has ledto improved sales for the two bone densitometry segment leadershas

Osteoporosis drug raises all corporate boats

Lunar and Hologic aren't the only firms benefiting from increasedinterest in bone densitometry. The same good news that has ledto improved sales for the two bone densitometry segment leadershas apparently done the same for their lesser known competitors.

Companies that make economical bone mineral density (BMD) instruments,such as Norland and Dove Medical, as well as the makers of quantitativeCT software products, like Image Analysis and MindWaves, reportincreased interest and sales in the wake of broadening reimbursementfor procedures. They have also received a lift from the releaseof Merck's osteoporosis drug, Fosamax, earlier this year (SCAN10/11/95).

"I have been in the business for 10 years and for thefirst time you can feel the energy," said Ben Arnold, presidentof Image Analysis of Columbia, KY. "Fosamax seems to be thedriver."

Arnold believes that Fosamax has led to a change in attitudeamong primary-care physicians.

"Before this drug was available, the primary-care doctorwasn't sure what to do. So he found low bone mass, so what? Nowhe has medication," Arnold said.

Arnold reports increased sales of Image Analysis' BMD productand he expects the trend to accelerate. The product, a solid phantommade of calcium hydroxyapatite, serves as a standard against whichautomated software running on a CT workstation can compare bonemass in the spine. The company's software provides automated region-of-interestplacement, analysis, error checking and graphical clinical reports.The package is sold through several large OEMs, including GE,Philips and Shimadzu.

Cost-effective use of CT time is one of the advantages ImageAnalysis uses to promote sales of the $17,400 product.

"There are 10,000 CT scanners in the U.S., many of themwith time available," Arnold said. "In terms of effectiveuse of medical dollars, QCT (quantitative CT) is a great buy."

Norland of Ft. Atkinson, WI, is also emphasizing a cost-conscioussolution to BMD measurement with its introduction in October ofpDEXA, a compact, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometer that sellsfor about $27,000.

"We have been getting a tremendous amount of interestfrom the ob/gyn field," said Thomas Regan, Norland vice presidentof sales and marketing.

Mobile providers of medical services that address clinics,women's centers and nursing homes have also shown strong interestin pDEXA, which is well-suited to transport, Regan said.

"When I demo it, I can rent a car at the airport and putit in the back seat," he said.

Like Arnold, Regan believes that much of the interest beingexpressed in pDEXA has resulted from the availability of Fosamax.

Several other vendors of BMD products have put their own specialtwist on these software- and hardware-based technologies. MindWavesSoftware, formerly known as Imagix, also uses software runningon a PC to compute bone density by comparing CT data of vertebraeto those of a bone phantom. The company has about 200 softwarepackages in use worldwide. At last month's Radiological Societyof North America meeting, MindWaves released a new BMD packagecalled QCT Pro, which compiles and compares 3-D data of a volumeof bone to a volume of phantom.

"Rather than taking a single thick slice through a vertebra,you can determine the volume of interest," said Mindy Lai,vice president of engineering at MindWaves of South San Francisco,CA.

Like other firms, the company hopes to ride the growing waveof interest in BMD.

"Merck's new drug has stimulated a great deal of interestin bone mineral density measurements," Lai said. "Weare seeing more people this year than ever before who have notdone BMD and are coming to us and asking what it takes to startdoing it."

Iris of Benicia, CA, has developed a phantomless bone mineralanalysis program that uses the patient's own soft tissue seenin CT images as a standard by which to quantitate trabecular bonedensity. Company vice president Richard Oswald reports a jumpin inquiries, particularly from imaging centers, as well as froma wide range of physicians, including cardiologists.

This broad-based interest has also been witnessed by Joan Piccioni,president of Dove Medical Systems of Newbury Park, CA. The companyoffers OsteoAnalyzer, a single-energy x-ray absorptiometer thatmeasures calcaneal bone density when the patient's heel is insertedinto the device.

Dove Medical, which lists OsteoAnalyzer for about $39,000,initially concentrated on international sales, but decided toenter the U.S. market to maximize on the potential of Fosamax.

"When we heard Merck was coming out with this new drug,we decided this was a very good time to sell in the U.S.,"Piccioni said.

The expectation of strong interest in the device has been realized,with the help of Merck's sales force, she said.

"Merck has embraced bone densitometry as a way to sellFosamax and all the Merck sales people are out there telling doctorsabout the different companies (that provide bone densitometryequipment), including ours," Piccioni said.

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