Nasal cannulas gain traction

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

YORBA LINDA, Calif. - The nasal cannula market for sleep therapy that Innomed’s Nasal Aire tapped earlier this year has spawned its first alternative in Viasys Healthcare’s Spiritus.

Recently unveiled at a European trade show, the new CPAP interface, according to providers who’ve seen it, looks a lot like the Innomed device except that the cannula is not worn over the ears but hangs from the headgear like a goatee.

Viasys says the big difference between its interface and Innomed’s is size. “We’re one-third their size and half their weight,” said a Viasys vice president, Tim Quinn.

Others are saying there’s not enough difference between the two company’s masks and that legal wrangling over who owns the nasal cannula technology is bound to ensure.

Innomed pried open the cannula market early last year with bold claims about sales projections and traction that, according to Innomed CEO Patrick Karem, have largely turned out.

“Our initial target was to do 100,000 units in our first year, and our target has far exceeded that, almost doubling that,” said Karem.

That Innomed has identified a niche with its nasal cannula is beyond question. John Goodman, president of and Health Management Services in Houston, said about 10% of the interfaces he’s moving today are Nasal Aire’s.

At the same time, providers are saying that the nasal cannula is a more polarizing kind of interface. “You either love it or hate it,” said one provider.

Goodman agrees. “It strikes out a lot, but it’s the best system for a significant % of people.”

No definitive clinical trials have substantiated Nasal Aire’s traction, but Karem says five studies are underway, the most a substantial a 200-patient study whose results will be published in Sleep.

In the meantime, Viasys is charging into a market that the major sleep manufacturers believe is better served by products nasal pillow products like Puritan Bennett’s Breeze and smaller profile masks like the ResMed’s Mirage Vista and Respironics’ Simplicity that allow users to wear glasses. HME