Transfillers revving in the wings

Monday, December 31, 2001

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Four years after Invacare and Chad Therapeutics promised home oxygen providers an end to costly refill trips to patient's homes, the companies' transfilling systems have yet to take wing but still factor significantly into the companies' home oxygen strategies.

Chad - whose Total O2 Delivery System is the only transfilling system that's actually shipping since Invacare's system ran afoul of the FDA - says its sales have continued to climb slowly. Although the market has yet to embrace the Total O2, Chad believes in the technology.

"At some point in the futurethe Total O2 has the potential to produce significant incremental revenues for Chad," Earl Yagers, Chad's CFO and COO, wrote in a written response to an HME News inquiry.

This year, Chad modified the Total O2's cradle to accept C, D and E cylinders The cradle also accommodates ultra40, M-4 and M-6 cylinders.

Invacare's transfilling system has undergone more dramatic changes. With the first generation Venture HomeFill, the system housed a dedicated five-liter concentrator in an awkward tub. Invacare says it shipped approximately 1,200 of the first generation systems before the FDA insisted that Invacare obtain 510k marketing clearance for the HomeFill.

At Medtrade 2000, Invacare debuted a sleek 2nd generation product that was also hung up at the FDA until this year. The tub is no longer part of the system. Instead, a 30-pound stand-alone compressor funnels excess oxygen from a 5-liter concentrator into an M-6, C, D or E cylinder.

Until Medtrade 2001, the system - which had yet to start shipping - required the use of a dedicated five-liter concentrator. But after the system got the green light from the FDA earlier this year, Invacare scrapped those plans and re-engineered its concentrator line so that HomeFill II would work with any five-liter unit.

The connecting port is very clever and easier to use than a liquid system's connection, according to Bob McCoy, managing director of an independent consulting firm, Valley Inspired Products in Savage, Minn., who conducted a seminar on transfilling devices at Medtrade. The drawback, he noted, is the same drawback that plagues all cylinder-based portable system: "Even with space age technology, you still have to put it in a pack and use an external conserving device." HME