Invacare jumps into sleep market 'with both feet'

Sunday, August 6, 2006

ELYRIA, Ohio - Invacare's drive to become a "big player" in the market for sleep therapy products picked up speed last week when the company announced an exclusive distribution agreement with sleep products manufacturer AEIOMed.

"We have another line coming out in the spring, and there will be a whole bunch of products behind that," said Ann MacGregor, Invacare's vice president of sleep. "Invacare's jumped in with both feet."

The AEIOMed deal gives Invacare a modular lightweight CPAP, a nasal pillow interface and a soon-to-be-released compliance monitoring technology. Those products join Invacare's line of CPAPs, humidifers and interfaces. AEIOMed's products will be privately labeled by Invacare. MacGregor declined to say what products the company may add next year, but two gaping holes in the company's sleep offering include an auto CPAP and a full-face mask.

The deal with AEIOMed made sense for both companies, said Holly Larkin, AEIOMed's senior director of marketing and clinical affairs.

"We have this nice innovation but Invacare has the name and has been in the marketplace for a long time," she said. "Invacare has the ability to be out there in many different venues, and we really didn't have that ability."

Prior to the deal, AEIOMed used independent sales reps to distribute its products. Some of the reps did really well, but others not so well, Larkin said.

"You are always competing for their time," she said.

The agreement with Invacare gives AEIOMed access to Invacare's roster of some 100 direct sales reps.

When it comes to building market share in the sleep market, manufacturers must offer a full-line of products, MacGregor said. If they don't, sleep labs, which send CPAP referrals to HME providers, often consider them lightweights and won't look at their products.

"We have found that when we go in and try to talk to the physicians, we quite often don't get to see them," MacGregor said. "It's like a wall. We have to cater to that model to a certain extent to get through it."