Philips to Market Surgery Robot to Alleviate Lead-Draped Doctors

Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHIA) will start selling a robot-assisted medical system to treat obstructed coronary arteries as it seeks to advance its lead in the booming market for image-guided intervention therapy.

The Dutch company teamed up with Corindus Vascular Robotics, whose robotic operating system complements Philips’ X- ray technology, and the two companies entered a distribution accord in the U.S. after the product was approved by the Food & Drug Administration in July. Philips said it is building reference sites for the system and wants to complete some sales this year.

“This is a bet we are making, this is a place where we think we are providing solutions that health care needs,” said Gene Saragnese, the head of Philips’ imaging systems subsidiary. “There is cost pressure on hospitals, there is pressure to deliver higher-quality care, and there are more patients around the world looking for access to health care than ever before.”

Philips has benefited from growth rates in interventional imaging that are twice the pace of diagnostics in the 17 billion-euro ($21 billion) global market for medical imaging equipment. Doctors conducted more than 950,000 interventions to pry open blocked heart arteries in the U.S. alone last year, according to Amsterdam-based Philips.

Marketing the system comes about a year after Philips and Natick, Massachusetts-based Corindus announced an alliance. Philips will target the U.S. market initially, and it may be sold globally eventually, Saragnese said in a telephone interview.

Lead Aprons

As more hospitals treat patients with so-called minimal invasive therapy instead of open surgery, doctors performing the operation are supported by image guidance that exposes them to regular doses of x-rays, forcing them to wear 50-pound (23 kilogram) lead aprons during procedures that can last hours.

Physicians using the Corindus system sit in a radiation- free environment and interact with the patient through the robot, with x-ray technology providing the image guidance. Philips is the exclusive distributor, and doctors can integrate the robotic application with their existing imaging systems, Saragnese said.

Philips competes in the global medical imaging market with General Electric Co. (GE) and Siemens AG. (SIE) The Dutch company is No. 2 in ultrasound, the biggest segment of the market, and the leader in interventional x-ray used in the Corindus system. Siemens, based in Munich, has spent billions of euros to expand its medical diagnostics business in recent years. Saragnese said that seeking partnerships with start-ups will continue.

“A large company like us can’t do everything, so partnering with the right companies in the industry is a powerful formula,” Saragnese said. “They were attracted to us because of the size of our installed base.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Benedikt Kammel in Berlin at bkammel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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