A Medical Device Daily

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said Thursday it will investigate a complaint by dental products maker Dentsply International that two companies, one based in the U.S. and the other in France, are violating two of its patents on instruments used in root canals.

The ITC said Dentsply has requested it bar the import and sale of the instruments.

The ITC is an independent federal agency that performs economic research on trade agreements and investigates unfair trade practices. The agency can bar imports of products that infringe U.S. patents and trademarks.

Dentsply has accused Guidance Endodontics (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and a French company, Micro Mega International Manufacturers , of infringing on its patents.

In other patent activity, Bentley Pharmaceuticals (Exeter, New Hampshire), a specialty pharmaceutical company, said that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued it patent number 7,244,703 titled “Pharmaceutical Compositions and Methods for Peptide Treatment.” The patent extends coverage for Bentley’s current intranasal drug delivery technology using CPE-215 beyond insulin to include delivery of other therapeutically effective, pharmaceutically active peptides, peptidomimetics and proteins. Many such molecules are already in commercial use in chronic clinical indications employing injections that could benefit patients through enabling of nasal administration formats. In September 2006, Bentley received a U.S. patent covering its intranasal delivery spray for insulin.

Monitor to reduce interventions

Among the systems introduced at Healthcare Unbound,LifeLink Monitoring (Norcross, Georgia) featured its MDILog, a metered-dose inhaler for asthma and chronic pulmonary disease patients that records date and time of medication use to increase caregiver awareness of therapy compliance.

The inhaler features a screen for patient’s to view feedback on the effectiveness of the dose delivery and an audible alarm to remind patient’s to use the medication. An infrared device transfers data from the handheld unit to a a docking station connected by a plain old telephone (POT) line to a server. The patient usage data is uploaded to a secured website that can be monitored by a caregiver or family member.

LifeLink has 1,000 patients currently using inhalers and has served 10,000 patients to date.

Simple monitoring produces impressive results.

WebVMC (Conyers, Georgia) reported results from a program with the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC, Ahoskie, North Carolina) using the company’s Remote Nurse telehealth system for tracking vital signs.

Bonnie Britton, COO and director of nursing at RCCHC, presented preliminary six-month findings that showed hospitalizations decreased by 92%; length of stay reduced by 89%; emergency room visits reduced by 67%; and hospital and ER costs reduced by 93%.

Just 51 patients out of a population of 14,500 received the in-home monitoring that produced what conference participants challenged as “staggering numbers” during a Q&A session.

Britton took on the challenge, illustrating how technology-assisted interventions for simple primary care procedures, such as monitoring weight and blood pressure, create greater awareness among disadvantaged populations and reduce use of the medical system.

The 51 patients ran up a medical bill of $744,000 in the six months prior to the study, she said, via rehospitalizations, emergency room visits and consultations with physicians.

Over a period of six months that these patients used the remote monitoring of their chronic conditions, the interactions with the medical system dropped to $53,000.

She cited the example of a 85-year-old man with a history of severe heart failure who alone accounted for $173,000 in healthcare costs in five months of 2006. The same patient over the next seven months had only one intervention, valued at $34,000, and no interventions since this past May.

“He is not only doing well, he is feeling too good,” she said. “On our last visit we found he was driving — but also smoking again.”

The central feature of WebVMC’s Remote Nurse is an 8-inch screen installed in the patient home that pulls data from any number of monitoring devices and then pushes alerts, educational information and other interactive messaging. When patient data exceeds a pre-programmed threshold, it triggers an intervention by doctor or nurse.

WebVMC also provides RCCHC with kiosks used in senior centers, schools and churches for mass screenings.

“Reducing healthcare costs is not rocket science,” said Britton. “If you simply monitor patients daily and intervene when required, you will keep them out of the hospital.”

— John Brosky, Contributing Writer