Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest maker of heart rhythm devices, will enter the kidney dialysis business in collaboration with India’s Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd.
Medtronic is developing a new approach to hemodialysis, which filters toxins from the blood of people with kidneys too damaged to do the job. The companies will work to craft a system by 2016 that functions well in the developing world, with a low-cost, portable approach that doesn’t rely heavily on infrastructure, said Ven Manda, vice present of science, technology and new therapies at Minneapolis-based Medtronic.
Access to treatment for end-stage kidney disease often varies based on location, with patients in the U.S., Europe and other developed countries getting dialysis with machines made by companies including Fresenius Medical Care AG and Baxter International Inc. Patients in the developing world are less likely to have access, and need options that don’t require as much water and infrastructure, Manda said.
“In the case of hemodialysis, both the cost and lack of mobility of current systems have made broader access to dialysis treatment difficult and expensive,” Medtronic Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak said in a statement.
Medtronic is investing 1.5 billion rupees ($24 million) to develop and manufacture portions of the system in India. It’s also starting a research and development team there to work with Chennai, India-based Apollo Hospitals, one of the biggest health-care providers in Asia.
The two companies will customize the technology so it can be taken from large cities into communities, villages and into the home, Manda said, describing it as a smaller “laptop” type system that’s lower cost and more agile. One main challenge will be reducing the dependency on ultrapure water that’s required by current dialysis machines.
“One of the first things we are addressing is the dependency on high quantities of ultrapure water,” Manda said. “There is hardly enough water to nourish human beings and get food on the table.”
About 10 percent of adults in India suffer from kidney disease and almost 200,000 patients develop end-stage disease ever year. While patients need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive, many have limited access to the treatment because of costs and other barriers to health care, the companies said.