Portable oxygen stakes continue to escalate

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ANAHEIM HILLS, Calif. - By developing a 9.5-pound portable concentrator with batteries that last up to eight hours, industry newcomer OxyTec Medical is the latest manufacturer to raise the bar even higher in an already furiously competitive portable oxygen market.
The OxyTec 900, introduced at Medtrade Spring and set for launch in the fall, is being touted as lighter, more comfortable, easier to use and longer-lasting than other portable systems currently available on the market. Its 9.5-pound weight includes the batteries and cover case. Company officials say the unit's batteries will last eight hours at a setting of 2 and a breathing rate of 20 breaths per minute.
"Our approach has been to provide ambulatory oxygen patients with the best product possible," said Bob Mogue, director of sales and marketing. "The concept of the small concentrator has been around for awhile, so we're blending the best features and benefits in order to achieve the best balance possible for the patient."
Besides its light weight and long battery life, the OxyTec 900 features a touchscreen interface that is easy to read, intuitive and eliminates protruding knobs, Mogue said.
Developers behind the new breed of high-tech portable oxygen units have suggested that under the right circumstances, a portable unit may be the only system an ambulatory oxygen patient needs. Does OxyTec subscribe to that belief?
"Our device could satisfy the requirement for stationary use," Mogue said. "Whether it's appropriate for overnight use, that question is best answered by the prescribing physician. Each individual has their own needs."
Denver pulmonologist Dr. Tom Petty, known in medical circles as "the father of home oxygen," admires the great strides that have been made in home oxygen technology recently, but isn't convinced that a portable concentrator should be a patient's only unit.
"These systems are parsimonious in the amount of oxygen they provide," he said. "It may be enough in some cases, but we need to look more closely at the total amount of oxygen delivered."
The OxyTec organization is comprised of industry veterans such as Mogue, who formerly worked at CHAD Therapeutics. President Charlie Atlas worked in the respiratory and anesthesia arena for 22 years and Pete Bliss, chief technical officer, came from Valley Inspired Products. Combined, the staff has more than 50 years' experience in the medical device industry, Atlas said.
As OxyTec readies its 900 unit for release in the fall, a concentrator from Buffalo, N.Y.-based AirSep is already poised to advance portability even further. AirSep's 4.5-pound FreeStyle unit is also slated for a fall release - a year after being introduced at Medtrade 2004.
"This will do for portable oxygen what the standard concentrator did for stationary oxygen," said President Joe Priest.
OxyTec's eight-hour batteries and AirSep's 4.5-pound frame are innovations that follow closely on the heels of the much-ballyhooed Inogen One concentrator, which at 9.5 pounds and three-hour battery life was state-of-the-art when it went into production earlier this year. Bob Fary, vice president of sales for Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Inogen, says he's not surprised at the frantic pace of one upsmanship.
"There were no innovations for 20 years and now there's an explosion," he said. "We have always expected competition in this space and are elated because it validates this segment and patients emerge as the real winners. We'll see what happens with these other products and we welcome all others."