KCI, Medela do battle

Saturday, June 30, 2007

CHICAGO - KCI may be Goliath in the market for negative pressure wound therapy, but that doesn't scare Medela officials.
In April, a judge affirmed a jury's verdict that Medela did not infringe on KCI's patent. Medela, best known in the United States for its breast-feeding products, then launched the Invia Healing System, a negative pressure wound therapy product intended to go head-to-head with KCI. In May, KCI appealed the judge's decision, but Medela has no plans to back off.
"KCI is obviously pursuing litigation to protect what I consider a sole source of supply and service for negative pressure, and, again, I will say that it doesn't change our strategy--if anything, it furthers our resolve," said Bernie Laurel, vice president, Medela Healthcare Americas. "We're confident that even on appeal we will be victorious."
In this legal battle, Medela also has appealed portions of the April ruling that rejected its claims that KCI's patents are invalid and unenforceable.
Medela's entry into the negative pressure market spells potential good news for HME providers. KCI, for the most part, does not use providers to distribute its products. Medela plans to distribute products directly to acute care facilities but will use HME providers to reach the homecare market, Laurel said.
"There's an awful lot of excitement from HMEs to have such a huge field open to them," he said. "We get a lot of inquiries from them and we're extremely busy at tradeshows."
Laurel called the market for negative pressure therapy, which treats pressure ulcers and other hard-to-heal wounds, "huge and growing." Current estimates show sales cresting $1 billion annually, and sources peg market penetration at only 30%.
If there's a wrinkle for providers thinking of entering what for many is virgin territory, it's this: The market's potential has not been lost on CMS. The agency included "Negative pressure Wound Therapy Pumps and Related Supplies and Accessories" in competitive bidding.
"This is one of those markets that has the attention of everyone, including payers," Laurel said. "The payers are looking at the market and asking, 'How can we save money in this field?' Medicare is just the first to take a big stand on it."