A Medical Device Daily

Advocates of healthcare cost control are congenitally inclined to question the real value of the latest and greatest in medical technology, and a recent study suggests that in at least some cases, the tried and true works just as well as the newest gizmo.

According to the April 1 statement at the web site for the National Institutes of Health, the recently completed Home Automated External Defibrillator Trial (HAT), underwritten in part by NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), indicated that those at risk for sudden cardiac arrest were as likely to survive when automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were available at home as when not.

According to the NIH statement, the HAT study "followed 7,001 heart attack patients at moderate risk of sudden cardiac arrest who had a spouse or other live-in companion." To enroll the patient, that spouse or companion had to agree to either deploy the AED or perform CPR in the event of cardiac arrest. After three years of follow-up, "researchers found that survival rates were about the same" between the two groups, although the NIH report points out that "there were relatively few sudden cardiac arrests, and only 39% of those events were witnessed at home."

According to NIH, "at least 95% of cases [of sudden cardiac arrest] end in death within a few minutes," with 75% of such incidents taking place at home. Ventricular fibrillation is still the chief culprit.

Of the study participants, all of whom had suffered a heart attack previously, 450 died during the course of the study, which was almost evenly split between the control group (228) and the AED group (222). However, only 160 of those deaths were due to sudden cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, about half (59) of those events took place when the patient was alone at home.

Gus Bardy, MD, the lead researcher for HAT, said that the prevailing theory was that "the vast majority of sudden cardiac arrests would happen at home, but we didn't expect that so few would be witnessed by a spouse or other member of the household." Bardy acknowledged that this fact "dramatically limits the chance that someone would be there to use an AED or to perform CPR."

Despite the total numbers, the study also disclosed that AED use in the home is perhaps less than optimal. According to study co-author Eleanor Schron, PhD, a study of community use of AEDs indicated that nearly twice as many patients survived cardiac arrest in communities where volunteers were trained in AED use as in communities where only CPR training took place. Schron said that similar finding in HAT indicates that "AEDs were underused in the home."

U.S. patent filings up again in 2007

Innovation is becoming the lifeblood of more national economies than just that of the U.S., but while many developed and developing nations are bolstering their patent portfolios, Yankees are still the source of more than a third of all the patents successfully filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty negotiated by members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO; Geneva).

In its most recent annual report, WIPO said "a record 156,100 applications were filed in 2007, representing a 4.7% rate of growth over the previous year." Anchoring the list was the U.S., with more than 52,000 international applications last year, which accounted for more than a third (33.5%) of all applications. Japan came in second with a bit more than 27,700 applications (17.8%), and Germany rounded out the top three with more than 18,000 applications (11.6%).

The rest of the top five consisted of the Republic of Korea, which filed just more than 7,000 applications (4.5%) and France, at almost 6,400 applications for 4.1%.

Among the biggest gainers in the U.S. was nuclear engineering, which was the source of a 24.5% increase in patent applications, from 572 to 712, but medical technology ranked fifth in all categories for total number of applications made to WIPO from the U.S., with just a shade less than 12,000 applications coming from the med-tech sector. Device makers put up 5% more applications in 2007 than the previous year, a stronger performance than their healthcare product cousins in biotech, which accounted for a bit more than 7,200 applications, a drop of about 2.5% from 2006.

Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, which were lumped together, fared little better with a jump of only .1%, but their total applications still outstripped those of the med-tech sector with almost 14,000.

Telecommunications topped U.S. innovators, filing more than 15,700 international applications last year, and information technology ranking second with just a bit more than 15,000.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posted a very brief announcement recently that fees for international patient applications will go up by $2,496 starting April 1. PTO did not say what the fee was prior to the increase.