When Japanese medical device-maker Terumo Corp. was founded in 1921, the mercury thermometer was considered a high-tech medical device.
Today's high-tech devices include everything from smartphone ultrasound equipment to artificial hearts, but at Terumo's interventional systems unit, in the Somerset section of Franklin, the focus isn't so much on cutting-edge technology as it is getting the cutting-edge technology into place.
"The simple statement I typically use is if you can't get there, you can't deliver the therapy," said James Rushworth, Terumo Interventional Systems' president. "So, why has this organization been successful? Be- cause we are best at helping you get there."
Terumo Interventional Systems makes and markets guide wires, sheaths and catheters, and other products for use in interventional procedures like angioplasty or stent placements.
Terumo is a major player in the Japanese device market, but its profile in the United States, where its companies fall under the banner of Terumo Medical Corp., is decidedly smaller, partly because it used a licensed distributor to market its products until 2006. Since then, the firm has rededicated itself to growing in the United States, which Rushworth considers an "emerging market" for the company. Evidence of the "emerging" status is the company's sales, which jumped by 15 per- cent last year.
Sheath and guide wire innovation isn't the flashiest niche in the medical device market, but Rushworth said it is among the most important. He noted the highest rates of complication from percutaneous coronary interventions come from complications or bleeding at the access site.
The company has been on "a mission over the past four or five years to really talk to our customers — not about the product, per se, but about the importance of access," Rushworth said.
One of the conversations Terumo has been having with physicians regards which artery they use for catheterization procedures. Traditionally, American doc- tors have used the femoral artery, in the thigh, but that's become more difficult, in part because of rising obesity rates. Terumo is encouraging doctors to think about "radial" access, using an artery in the wrist.
Dr. Theirry Momplaisir, an inter- ventional cardiologist at Lourdes Health System, said radial access catheterization is becoming more popular.
"The advantages for radial artery catheterization are several-fold, both for the physician and for patients," he said. "For the patient, the number one risk of bleeding is significantly lower just on the basis that the radial artery is a smaller artery" then the femoral.
He said patients who undergo procedures through their femoral arteries also have to lie on their backs for several hours; radial patients can get up and walk soon after the procedure. Rushworth wants more doctors to
think like Momplaisir. If they do, he hopes those doctors consider Terumo's latest innovations. To that end, Rushworth said some of his most effective salespeople are his field clinical team, comprised of registered nurses and radiation technologists, and his R&D team, made up of engineers.
"It's easier for the clinical team to get into these in-depth conversations," he said. "It's easier for our R&D team and the engineers to really get the attention of a physician."
Avinandan Mukherjee, chair of the department of marketing at Montclair State University, said Terumo's challenge reminds him of one faced by The Medicines Co. when it introduced its Angiomax anticoagulant into a market dominated by the much-cheaper Heparin in 2000. He said the company produced re- search showing the more expensive drug actually was cheaper in the long run, be- cause it cut down on complications and readmissions.
Mukherjee said Terumo would do well to use research, medical journal articles and continuing medical education courses to make its case both in medical and economic terms, but said informing physicians is only half the battle.
"That's where the issue comes in as to whether the company's products are superior," he said.
After educating doctors, Mukherjee said Terumo must build its brand reputation and emphasize the quality and precision of its products versus the com- petition. He said the company's Japanese background could also prove a plus, since Japan enjoys a good reputation in other high-tech fields.
Terumo, meanwhile, is growing. Earlier this year, it bought California-based Onset Medical Corp., a company making larger sheaths that enable placement of devices as large as a thumb. Rushworth's unit also moved its head-quarters, and 48 staffers, out of Terumo Medical Corp.'s Somerset office and into a new office just down the road. About 50 interventional systems staffers remain at the old site. New hires are planned in sales, R&D, training and education, and field clinical staffers.
One goal of those new staffers will be to bring additional Terumo devices into the U.S. market, including the Misago self-expanding stent. Terumo completed enrollment for a U.S. clinical trial for the stent in July.
"These are products that have worked in the Japanese market, worked in the European market," Rushworth said. "We know how they perform. We know how they stack against the competition. We're getting set to bring those technologies to the U.S. market."
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