Picker builds in Europe with new relationships

September 16, 1993

Picker International expanded its CT therapy simulation agreementwith Varian Associates last week to focus the joint marketingeffort worldwide, according to Christopher J. Peabody, Pickersenior vice president of international operations. This

Picker International expanded its CT therapy simulation agreementwith Varian Associates last week to focus the joint marketingeffort worldwide, according to Christopher J. Peabody, Pickersenior vice president of international operations. This cooperationwith the Palo Alto, CA-based Varian is one of several moves takenby Picker over the past year to boost imaging sales outside theU.S.

The two firms signed an American agreement at the time of theRadiological Society of North America meeting in November. Appropriately,the global expansion was inked during the European Congress ofRadiology conference in Vienna.

Varian has a significant linear accelerator business in Europe,based out of Switzerland. The companies will be able to boostsales by leveraging each other's existing clinical relationships,Peabody said. Demand for cancer therapy can be expected to riseworldwide.

"There is not enough modern cancer treatment equipmentthroughout the world," Peabody said. "As countries canafford to, they will be investing more in this area."

Picker's international sales outpaced its U.S. sales for thefirst time in the company's long history during the first fivemonths of the vendor's fiscal year beginning in April, Peabodytold SCAN.

Growth in European market share is likely to continue for thevendor as it expands partners, products and markets. Apart fromthe Varian agreement, several developments over the past yearbode well for Picker in Europe:

  • Picker Nordstar, a joint venture with Finland's Instrumentariumin low-cost MRI, provides established clinical relationships aswell as manufacturing and engineering expertise in Europe;

  • Picker reentered the U.K. market this year as its non-competeagreement with GE expired;

  • The drive by Picker to reestablish itself in standardx-ray coincides with an aging installed base and growing promisefor replacement radiographic sales; and

  • A high-level European manager was hired at the startof this year to improve distributor relationships in those nationalmarkets where Picker does not sell directly.

As many European hospitals are forced to live with tighterbudgets and strong restrictions on capital acquisitions, MRI salesin those regions will tend to migrate to low-cost mid- and low-fieldsystems. Providing customers with a fuller menu of MRI optionscan be beneficial in a slow market. Picker offers the 1.5-teslaEdge, 0.5-tesla Asset and 0.1-tesla Merit, Picker's new name forthe Instrumentarium scanner.

"Throughout Europe, governments are clamping down on reimbursement,"Peabody said. "It doesn't matter whether it is Germany orFrance, the amount of money available is being strictly limited.Hospitals and clinics have to be more focused on how they spendtheir money."

Instrumentarium's booth space on the floor of the Vienna Centerwas absorbed by Picker, providing the vendor with an enhancedECR presence, he said.

"You will be seeing Picker making a lot more effort onMRI marketing in Europe in the coming months," he said.

Picker's reentry into the British market comes at an opportunetime. While the U.K. lagged behind other markets in past yearsdue to restrictions in its national health-care systems, it isnow one of the bright spots in Europe. For example, Picker isparticipating in a major round of bids for 12 MRI systems in theU.K., he said.

While Picker has focused on high-tech modalities over the pastdecade, the vendor used to have a much stronger position in standardx-ray supply. It has been working to rebuild that product line.Picker builds radiographic systems in Frankfurt.

"The Picker name is still well respected in traditionalx-ray. We want to get back our traditional share of that market,"Peabody said.

Increased x-ray sales are expected both from replacement salesin mature European markets and new sales in emerging markets suchas Turkey, Eastern Europe and Russia. Booming Asian markets, suchas China, also have a need for basic radiographic equipment.

In Europe, Picker will continue to mix direct sales in Germany,Austria, France and the U.K. with distributor partnerships inthe other national markets. The hiring of a manager to supportdistributors in January has already led to improvement in thisside of the business, Peabody said.

While it no longer produces ultrasound systems of its own,Picker does participate in that market segment in Europe throughits 13-year relationship as a distributor for Hitachi ultrasoundin Germany and Austria.

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Peptide imaging agent developer Diatech has signed anexclusive agreement with Japan's largest radiopharmaceutical companyfor rights to two of Diatech's radiopharmaceuticals. The dealgives Nihon Medi-Physics of Hyogo, Japan, rights to Diatech'sinflammation/infection imaging agent and a thrombus imaging agent.

Both products are synthetic peptides labeled with technetium-99m.Diatech of Londonderry, NH, is one of several companies developingpeptides as an alternative to monoclonal antibodies (SCAN 6/30/93).The two agents are in phase one and two clinical trials in theU.S., according to the company. Diatech anticipates having fouragents in clinical trials by early next year.

The agreement includes an initial cash payment to Diatech,as well as milestone and royalty fees. Nihon Medi-Physics willalso purchase the compounds from Diatech.