About 10 percent of adults in India suffer from kidney disease and almost 200,000 patients develop end-stage disease ever year. While patients need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive, many have limited access to the treatment because of costs and other barriers to health care. Davita, Inc. of Torrance CA has already entered India in the services market. Now Medtronic Inc. of Minnesota will enter the kidney dialysis business in collaboration with India’s Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd.
Medtronic is developing a new approach to hemodialysis, which filters toxins from the blood of people with kidneys too damaged to do the job. The companies will work to craft a system by 2016 that functions well in the developing world, with a low-cost, portable approach, said Ven Manda, VP of science, technology and new therapies Medtronic. Patients in the developing world are less likely to have access to service offered on machines made by Fresenius and Baxter, and need options that don’t require as much water and infrastructure, Manda said.
“In the case of hemodialysis, both the cost and lack of mobility of current systems have made broader access to dialysis treatment difficult and expensive,” Medtronic Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak said in a statement.
Medtronic is investing $24 million to develop and manufacture portions of the system in India. It’s also starting a research and development team there to work with Chennai, India-based Apollo Hospitals, one of the biggest health-care providers in Asia. The two companies will customize the technology so it can be taken from large cities into communities, villages and into the home, Manda said, describing it as a smaller “laptop” type system that’s lower cost and more agile. One main challenge will be reducing the dependency on ultrapure water that’s required by current dialysis machines. One of the first things we are addressing is the dependency on high quantities of ultrapure water,” Manda said. “There is hardly enough water to nourish human beings and get food on the table.”
What this means
For a relatively small investment, the world’s largest medical device maker is getting to experiment with a new approach that could address a large incremental market. Expect to see more of these market experiments in the BRIC countries.