By now, most folks have probably read the new series issued by the New York Times, which discusses some serious errors that have been made during radiation therapy treatments for cancer patients. It's an emotional and disturbing read, and one that does justice to the immense importance of standards and quality assurance protocols in the realm of RT.
These articles cast a heavily skeptical eye toward the radiation therapy industry, focusing not just on quality control measures, but also on the pace at which we've seen adoption of new, expensive, and technologically complex RT machines. The point being that these innovative new technologies require increasingly complex quality review due to their reliance on computers and automation to perform much of the treatment planning and delivery functions for each patient.
The lens through which the articles explore these concerns and criticisms is one used to uncover a number of heartwrenching human interest stories. And the gravity of each of these patients' situations intensifies the concerns over radiation therapy safety. However, there are many angles to any one story, some of which don't receive as much focus as others.
Interpreting the Heated Discussion around RT Safety Concerns
Intuitive Surgical, the maker of da Vinci Surgical System, reported continued 2009 growth in its fourth quarter earnings call last Thursday, January 21.The new da Vinci Si system, which was launched in April, drove much of Intuitive's 2009 sales. In total, 110 dV surgical systems were sold in the last quarter, including 20 old systems which were credited for Si upgrades. Q4 da Vinci sales bring the global total to 1,395, of which 1,028 are in the United States, 248 in Europe, and 119 in other parts of the word.
Clinically speaking, the number of da Vinci procedures performed rose to an estimated 205,000 in 2009, an increase of 51% compared to 2008. The international market, in particular, is expanding at a rapid pace--procedures done outside of the US grew by 60% over 2009. As Intuitive moves forward with its recently granted Shonin clearance in Japan, the company seems poised to move its focus to its international markets as the national landscape becomes increasingly saturated.
Intuitive sets sights on da Vinci for hysterectomies, international market
Sales of Mountain View, California-based Conceptus' Essure--recently featured on The Today Show and promoted by Olympic athlete Picabo Street--have grown rapidly over the past three years, reaching an estimated $130 million in fiscal year 2009. During the Essure procedure, a nonsurgical permanent birth-control product, physicians place coiled micro-inserts into the fallopian tubes; within three months, the body and micro-inserts create a barrier preventing sperm from reaching the egg. This procedure maintains a 99.8 percent efficacy rate and provides an attractive alternative to women hesitant to undergo tubal ligation--a surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia.
According to an article published in Investor's Business Daily, Conceptus plans to target the nearly 7.5 million women in the US who have no plans to expand their families yet currently rely on temporary birth control methods as well as the 500,000 women undergoing tubal ligation annually. However, Conceptus will soon face competition from Bedford, Massachusetts-based Hologic, Inc., which recently received FDA approval for Adiana--a nonsurgical permanent birth control product similar to Essure.
Click here to read the full Investors.com article.
Click here to view the Essure website.