A Medical Device Daily

A long-awaited report produced by a joint UK government/medical device industry task force and released earlier this month sets out plans for acceleration of the use of medical innovation more widely across the National Health Service (NHS).

The report, "Innovation for Health: Making a Difference," also clarifies what the industry says it needs in order to grow and prosper.

The report is the product of a Strategic Implementation Group set up by the Healthcare Industries Task Force (HITF). HITF came about because of the healthcare industry's wish to develop a dialogue with the government.

Launched in October 2003, its focus was how to stimulate innovation in the NHS and industry and how to increase adoption of new, useful medical technologies.

The Task Force published its report,"Better Health Through Partnership: a Program for Action," in November 2004.

Health Minister Lord Hunt said, "Medical innovation has a major role to play in helping the NHS improve quality of life for patients. This report outlines the achievements gained by government and industry, working in partnership and the further benefits to be realized from our continued cooperation."

At its final meeting in late February, the Strategic Implementation Group agreed to take forward six recommendations:

  • Work toward the adoption and implementation of the procurement framework by the NHS involving key stakeholders, including patients, clinicians and industry. The group said the framework "will support the uptake of technologies and innovations that can lead to improvements in healthcare provision, patient safety and value for money."
  • Take stock of existing support mechanisms and of access to private finance for small- and medium-sized (SMEs) medical device companies and a review of what measures would be needed to address any issues that are identified.
  • Develop a UK marketing strategy covering both inward investment and export opportunities for the main industry sub-sectors.
  • Measure and analyze the UK healthcare industry environment — further development of key indicators to focus on success factors related to innovation, trade surplus and inward investment.
  • Government and industry playing an active role in the European Commission's inquiry into the competitiveness of the European medical devices industry.
  • Creation of a new mechanism for continuing the engagement between government and industry.

Christopher O'Donnell, CEO of Smith & Nephew (London), who chaired the task force, said, "Putting patients at the center of all that we do is the key to aligning the interests of the government, the NHS and industry. Patients should get the best treatments in a timely manner and our industry seeks to convert the creativity of doctors and scientists into innovative technologies to achieve this."

He added: "By focusing on mechanisms which accelerate the rate at which innovative treatments get from the laboratory to the front line of NHS care, we can create a virtuous circle."

The report said that collaborative work "has enabled practical measures and mechanisms to be identified to help improve patient access to the latest treatments medical technology companies can provide."

It cited such achievements as:

  • Establishment of a National Innovation Center that already is beginning to link innovators with appropriate financial, clinical and commercial partners to help them bring promising new products successfully to market.
  • Inclusion of medical devices and technologies within the work program of the UK Clinical Research Collaborative.
  • Development of a new device evaluation service, the Center for Evidence-based Purchasing, within the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency to provide objective evidence to support uptake of useful, safe innovative products.
  • Development of a procurement framework for the NHS to embed modern approaches to procurement and to deliver increased value for the service of patients.
  • Launch of a training hub to support use by the NHS of advanced training tools for key innovative surgical procedures.
  • Development of two pilot Healthcare Technology Cooperatives, beginning next month, to pioneer new technology-based treatments in areas of unmet clinical need.

The UK Clinical Research Collaborative is tasked with speeding the development of new medicines and treatments from the laboratory to the patient by expanding the number and range of clinical trials. Its aim is to bring together clinical teams, primary care trusts, the voluntary sector and industry to increase the number of patients participating in clinical trials.

The healthcare industry in the UK includes more than 2,000 companies producing medical equipment and devices, ranging from syringes and aids for the disabled to diagnostic test kits, pacemakers and high-technology scanners.

The Association of British Health-Care Industries brought industry interests together for the HITF process. It worked with other trade associations, including the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, the British Healthcare Trades Association, the Surgical Dressing Manufacturers Association, the British Association of Anesthetic & Respiratory Equipment Manufacturers, GAMBICA, which represents companies in the instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology industry; the Association of Healthcare Technology Providers for Imaging, Radiotherapy and Care Manufacturers (AXrEM), and Medilink UK, which includes Mediwales, Medical Devices in Scotland and Bio Business Northern Ireland.

MDS Nordion expands Belgian facility

MDS Nordion (Ottawa, Ontario) is investing 1 4.5 million ($5.8 million) to expand its production facility in Fleurus, Belgium, to meet, it said, growing demand for Fluorine-18 Fludeoxyglucose (FDG), a medical imaging agent used in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

FDG is marketed and distributed by MDS Nordion under the name Glucotrace for use in positron emission tomography. Because Glucotrace has a limited lifespan, MDS Nordion said it is critical to have the ability to reliably supply the product to hospitals and clinical sites on time.

Presently, the company produces Glucotrace as part of a joint venture with the University of Liège (ULG), about 80 kilometers west of Fleurus.

The new MDS facility in Fleurus, combined with the existing site at ULG, will increase production capacity for Europe as well as provide the necessary manufacturing and supply flexibility to serve growing market demand.

Production of Glucotrace from the new facility is expected to begin mid-2008.