New ADAC relationship prompts Hitachi to wind down nuclear medicine operations

June 23, 1999

Technology may find a new home at other companies, however Japanese multimodality vendor Hitachi Medical has decided to put an end to the sale and marketing of its own gamma cameras, the company disclosed at this month’s Society of

Technology may find a new home at other companies, however

Japanese multimodality vendor Hitachi Medical has decided to put an end to the sale and marketing of its own gamma cameras, the company disclosed at this month’s Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in Los Angeles. Hitachi instead will focus on selling gamma cameras made by ADAC Laboratories in Hitachi’s home market of Japan, while in North America Hitachi will make do with a scaled-back operation that will focus on supporting the installed base of Hitachi-manufactured nuclear medicine systems.

Hitachi announced the ADAC relationship in May, stating that it would halt R&D on future gamma cameras in favor of selling the Milpitas, CA, company’s line of products. Hitachi described the move as part of an effort to conserve resources that could be better spent on more established businesses, such as its MRI, CT, ultrasound, and x-ray operations.

Despite the ADAC relationship, Hitachi could have continued selling its existing systems in North America over the long term. These include the SpectraDigital V250DSP variable-angle digital gamma camera and the SpectraDigital 300ss workstation. Hitachi began making plans to sell these products in North America in 1996, after its previous distributor, Summit Nuclear, merged with Sopha Medical to form SMV.

Their commercial prospects would have been limited, however, given the market’s perception of Hitachi’s commitment to nuclear medicine. The company instead has decided to stop selling its own gamma cameras some time in 2000, according to Gary Enos, general manager of Hitachi Medical Corporation of America’s nuclear medicine division in Twinsburg, OH.

“Hitachi will distribute ADAC products in Japan,” Enos said. “We will cease some time in the next year to be a developer and manufacturer of our own gamma cameras, both for Japanese and/or North American distribution.”

The company will continue to develop new features for the SpectraDigital 300ss workstation and the SpectraDigital V250DSP camera, Enos said. Hitachi will also service its installed base of cameras, and will provide spare parts to customers for as long as 10 years from the purchase of the camera. The changes mean that this month’s SNM meeting may have been Hitachi’s last show as an exhibitor.

Hitachi may not completely disappear from the nuclear medicine scene, however. The company has an active PET camera R&D operation in collaboration with Japanese optics firm Hamamatsu, and has developed several generations of PET systems (SCAN 5/27/98). Although it is not selling PET cameras in North America, Hitachi is keeping its options open regarding PET, especially given the rising interest in the technology, Enos said. Hitachi could begin selling PET in North America either on its own or through an OEM relationship with another vendor.

Hitachi SPECT technology could also live on if the company pursues technology sharing deals with other vendors, Enos said. Hitachi has made major advances in digital gamma camera technology, particularly in high count-rate performance and scatter correction. It has also completed development of a package of upgrades that includes thick crystals for high-energy imaging, coincidence detection protocols, and nonuniform attenuation correction (SCAN 5/26/99).

“You may find Hitachi technology in some other company’s offerings,” Enos said. “We’re not against that, and I will pursue what opportunities might exist in that regard.”

Enos believes that Hitachi’s partnership with ADAC is yet another example of the long-term trend toward alliances and partnerships in nuclear medicine. This has resulted in a much healthier market than existed five years ago, when eight major vendors were competing for pieces of a shrinking pie. That number has since been whittled down through either acquisitions or technology sharing deals.

“This is a marketplace of new alliances, be it GE and Elscint, Summit Nuclear and Sopha, Siemens and Toshiba, and now Hitachi and ADAC in Japan,” Enos said. “It is this global alliance approach that we will see changing the face of diagnostic imaging.”

© 1999 Miller Freeman, Inc.All rights reserved.