Sunrise product challenges Invacare's HomeFill II

Sunday, March 12, 2006

LONGMONT, Colo. - Sunrise Medical plans to launch a new product at Medtrade Spring designed to go head to head with Invacare's popular transfilling concentrator, the HomeFill II.

"We have the same goal as everyone else: to help suppliers reduce their overall operating costs," said Mark Ludwig, president, respiratory and long term care. "Invacare has done a great job creating a marketplace with a very good product, but we think that product needs competition."

Sunrise's iFill differs from the HomeFill and other competing products, Ludwig said, in that it operates as an independent fill station. That means the provider doesn't have to buy special equipment to use it. The patient--because he doesn't have to attach the iFill to the concentrator he uses every day--can set it up where he won't have to listen to the fill process.

Over the past several years, numerous companies have introduced transfilling concentrators and lightweight portable concentrators. The goal has been to decrease provider delivery costs and to increase patient freedom by giving them more control over their oxygen. With Medicare continuing to decrease oxygen reimbursement, the need for providers to decrease costs and streamline operations is greater than ever.

Sunrise's entry into this market endorses the need for a non-delivery model of home oxygen therapy, said Lou Slangen, Invacare's senior vice president of worldwide market development.

"We welcome competition--competition is the American way," he said. "For the provider, the issue to look at is whether they have a product they can be sure of. We've been at this for four years and with the HomeFill II for three years. We have a product that is safe, easy to use and reliable."

The iFill has a number of features that Sunrise officials expect providers to embrace. It can fill a large variety of cylinders, including M4, M6, ML6, C, D and E. It can fill an M6 cylinder in about 75 minutes and allows patients to top off cylinders. A typical patient who uses an M6 cylinder at 2 liters per minute will be able to ambulate for 4 to 4.5 hours, Ludwig said.

When it comes to transfilling concentrators, Ludwig said, Invacare owns the market. Sunrise wants to change that.

"Invacare has a very high market share that they want to defend," said Jim Clement, Sunrise's head of global product management for oxygen. "The good news from the manufacturer's side is that Invacare may have only penetrated 1% of the ambulatory population. So while Invacare's customers are people we want to pick up, there are a lot of people out there who haven't been touched yet."

Sunrise actually began developing home transfilling technology about seven years ago, but it abandoned those efforts when the company didn't see much provider interest. Times have changed, Ludwig said.

The iFill will be priced competitively, he said.