Inogen preps for launch

Thursday, September 30, 2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The latest entry to the high-stakes world of home oxygen delivery - the 9.5-pound Inogen One concentrator - was set to start shipping Oct. 1, the company announced in August.

Inogen has signed a distribution agreement for the United States and Canada with Adel, Iowa-based Evo Medical Solutions (formerly Medical Industries America) that fields 70 reps who call on 4,000 to 5,000 customers.

“It takes a long time to build a network of independents [sales reps],” said Bob Fary, Inogen’s vice president of sales. “This [distribution agreement] gives us access to all those customers at the flick of a switch.”

Like other premium oxygen systems, Inogen’s portable oxygen concentrator will come into the market at about three times the price of a traditional oxygen concentrator. Unlike the manufacturers of other premium systems - AirSep, CHAD, Invacare and Puritan Bennett - Inogen is brand new to the HME market. (See HME News, Dec. 2003)

But the company has made fast friends in critical places. Late last year, Inogen recruited Fary from his work as Apria’s corporate director of respiratory and HME services. That move doesn’t seem to have soured their prospects at Apria.

In a press release announcing the Oct. 1 ship date, Fary’s successor at Apria, Vernon Pertelle, said this about the Inogen One: “It’s hard to underestimate the importance of this moment for our industry…This product provides one more component to the armamentarium of therapeutic products available for patients.”

When AirSep introduced its 9-pound portable oxygen concentrator to the market, the upstate New York-based manufacturer steered away from marketing its device as both a stationary and portable solution. Inogen, by contrast, has not shied away from identification of its unit as a unit that serves both stationary and portable needs - not for everybody but for some people, said Fary.

“We are not positioning ourselves as that Holy Grail, as the be-all and end-all for everybody, but as a significant step toward it,” said Fary.

The be-all and end-all for everybody is likely to provide continuous flow all night long. Inogen One users will breathe off the conserver all night.

Fary said Inogen is now addressing this critical issue, knowing that to truly sell its concentrator as a portable and stationary solution, it will have to, at the very least, produce a study which demonstrates that patients using conservers do not desaturate at night.

“There’s no data right now that says conservers do or do not work,” said Fary. “Our opinion is that if conservers don’t work at night, it’s a sensitivity issue.”

Depending on the liter flow setting, the Inogen One’s battery will power oxygen production at 90%+ purity for two to three hours. (The higher the setting, the closer to two hours.) The unit operates at 40 decibels, among the lowest ratings in the industry.