Medical Device Daily Associate

In a clear effort to rebuild confidence in implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) technology — and slumping sales in the ICD sector — Medtronic (Minneapolis) has rolled out plans to launch a national campaign designed to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), its risk factors, and, not coincidentally, the role of ICD therapy in preventing death as a result of SCA.

“Today, nearly 1,000 Americans will die of sudden cardiac arrest — many of these deaths could have been prevented with ICD therapy,” said Steve Mahle, president of Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management at Medtronic. “We believe that more can be done to reach the hundreds of thousands of people who we know could benefit from ICD therapy, but remain unprotected. Ultimately, we believe this campaign will help save more lives.”

The campaign will include advertising; patient and caregiver information resources; physician education programs and outreach; and ongoing clinical research on SCA and the use of ICD therapy. The advertising begins this week with the launch of print, television and online advertising in the U.S., Medtronic said.

Medtronic in August had unveiled the first indication of its plan to launch such a campaign. The company said it may spend up to $100 million on the effort, which includes hiring of sales staff.

The ads, themed “What’s Inside,” are intended to show the link between medical device technology and the benefits people can experience by living with ICD therapy. The ads encourage those who may be at greatest risk of SCA —people who have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart failure — to visit or call 866-950-5550 for more information, including an SCA risk assessment that can be used to facilitate a discussion with a physician.

Although Medtronic’s overall sales have been strong, sales of its implantable cardiac defibrillators declined last year. However, in its most recent quarterly earnings, the company reported that ICD sales were up 4%.

The ICD market was battered most heavily by a series of reports over the past several months concerning the failure of ICDs, primarily those made by Guidant — now the CRM unit of Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts) and also by St. Jude Medical (St. Paul, Minnesota). But Medtronic is obviously experiencing some guilt by technological association — and the resulting sales slump.

Marketing aside, SCA is the one of the nation’s leading causes of death, claiming more lives than breast cancer, lung cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined.

SCA is a sudden, abrupt loss of heart function. Most SCA episodes are caused by the rapid and/or chaotic activity of the heart known as ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF). Recent estimates show that about 850,000 people in the U.S. are at risk of SCA and indicated for an ICD device, but remain unprotected. In fact, less than 35% of patients who are indicated for an ICD have one.

SCA is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack is a malfunction caused by blockage in a vessel that supplies blood to the heart, which may permanently damage part of the heart. Unlike SCA, most people survive a first heart attack. SCA is an “electrical” malfunction of the heart that results in no blood flow to the body or the brain. Sudden cardiac arrest is 95% fatal if left untreated.

The company noted that ICDs are highly reliable and are proven to be 98% effective in treating dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to SCA.

In still another campaign designed to bring awareness to a disease, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is partnering with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) community to sponsor a panel discussion to highlight the problem of COPD.

The panel presentation will take place tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., at the Holeman Lounge of the National Press Club (Washington).

COPD is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is expected to become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. by 2020.

Patient advocates, leading physicians, and scientists will discuss the growing burden COPD places on the individual, the family and society and how the science has informed the art of caring for the whole patient with COPD.

The panel will also provide an update on current research and future treatments.