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Reaping first-to-market combination product advantages

Truly innovative products can improve the effectiveness of medical therapies, help to achieve efficiencies, and thus become part of sustainable solutions to healthcare challenges. In particular, there are significant opportunities for companies to take advantage of an emerging trend—the convergence of pharmaceuticals and medical devices in combination products. Often without the expertise to develop their own drugs, many medical device OEMs are looking for partnership and licensing opportunities with pharmaceutical companies or hiring pharma experts.

According to Navigant Consulting, combination products were valued at $5.4 billion in 2004, with the global market for combination products growing 10 to 14% per year. Emsam is one such product—the first transdermal patch for use in treating depression. Emsam was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Future combination product applications are expected to include implantable, closed-loop insulin pumps, steroid-eluting electrodes, or even novel "physical solutions," such as drug-coated surgical screws, catheters, sutures, and wire. Here are the key considerations:

• Consider potential barriers to adoption of a combination product by healthcare providers, payers, and patients. Are these groups likely to be persuaded to overcome these barriers by the product's apparent benefits? Does a combination product represent a clear improvement over existing methods?

• Develop a convergence strategy.This is likely to be an outgrowth of a company's core business. Developing combination products can help pharmaceutical manufacturers exploit the full potential of their drugs—and potentially extend the patient life cycles of their products. For medical device companies, combination products can be the wedge needed to expand their market share.

• Consult with users. With careful market research and testing among patients, health care professionals can point out flaws in current therapies and pinpoint areas ripe for innovation. Physician advisory boards and input from leading medical societies are a tremendous resource for innovation and feedback.

• Outsource to speed development. Outside engineering and design firms can help—from research and product development through to equipment design and testing—speeding time to market and potentially lowering costs. It's good practice to ask design firms to sign confidentiality agreements protecting intellectual property and providing competitive exclusivity.

• Capitalize on innovation. Many experts predict that combination products will transform the medical industry and hold great promise for advancing patient care. It's likely that they will fuel greater competition as well as collaboration—as formerly separate players become competitors and/or partners. But in addition to presenting challenges in design, production, and approval processes, combination products offer exciting, unique opportunities. Even if they do not intend to enter this field for some time, manufacturers can benefit by creating a convergence plan and exploring the tools and partners needed to realize it. [HCP]

PharmaMedDevice conference and exhibition launched

To help life sciences companies accelerate the innovation of next-generation combination products, Reed Life Sciences will launch PharmaMedDevice. It's uncertain how focused it will be on packaging, but the inaugural event will be co-located with Interphex, April 23-25, 2007, in New York. Separately, Interphex announced that its preliminary results showed a 6% increase in total attendance this year.
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