On October 8, 2012, Boston Scientific (Natick, MA) announced its acquisition of Rhythmia Medical (Burlington, MA), a privately-held, next-generation electrophysiology mapping and navigation system developer. The deal includes $90m upfront, with additional milestone payments through to 2017 that could push the total deal value to $265m. Rhythmia’s mapping and navigation solutions are used in cardiac catheter ablations and other electrophysiology procedures to treat atrial fibrillation. This marks a decisive step forward for Boston Scientific (BSX) in the electrophysiology mapping and ablation business, a global market expected to grow at a rate of 16% to reach $2.0 billion by 2017. BSX expects to initiate a limited market launch of the mapping system, which is awaiting FDA and CE mark approval, in 2013, with a full launch in 2014. While this deal with Rhythmia is relatively small for BSX, this is their second interventional cardiology acquisition within a month. BSX announced its acquisition of Minnesota-based BridgePoint Medical and their catheter-based system for an undisclosed sum back in late September. BridgePoint has developed a non-invasive system used to treat coronary chronic total occlusions which has received both FDA and CE mark approval. Despite these promising purchases, BSX’s acquisition track record is questionable and has resulted in billion dollar write-downs over the past few years. These latest deals exhibit BSX’s attempt to drive in new sales revenue by tapping into new markets and purchasing companies with devices already on the market or close to being approved. BSX is well known for its high-performing catheter platform, but as competitors Johnson & Johnson and St. Jude also have that (and a mapping technology), it’s not surprising BSX has filled this imaging technology void via the Rhythmia deal in an attempt to catch up to its competitors in the cardiac catheterization field. Developing a mapping system internally would be risky as well as time-consuming, and this Rhythmia acquisition helps BSX better compete in the expanding atrial fibrillation market as they continue to re-adjust their product offerings to faster growth segments. All of this falls in line with CEO Hank Kucheman’s plan to dig BSX out of its recent earnings hole; the company reported a $3.4 billion loss in the last quarter amid falling sales of its cardiac units. Kucheman believes the way out is through building on the device giant’s strengths and unveiling a suite of innovative products that treat rising disease indications. Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most prevalent arrhythmia and is the leading cause of stroke for people over 65 years old. It’s estimated that 20 million people suffer from AF, of which 130,000 are treated by ablation each year. The electrophysiology (EP) mapping and ablation device market has experienced strong growth in recent years with the significant increase in AF catheter ablation procedures. This procedural volume escalation is primarily due to a growing aging population affected by arrhythmias, physicians’ focus on technological advancements in ablation devices as well as minimally invasive procedures, and huge unmet needs in pharmacological therapies. Major limiters of catheter mapping and ablation revenue include alternative treatments, constrained healthcare budgets, and device reprocessing. Despite these deterrents, the EP mapping and ablation device market is expected to continue to quickly grow with the release of premium-priced innovations that improve safety, decrease procedure times, and improve success rates. Device demand for this procedure type is so great that a number of devices are being used off-label for AF ablation, many of which are premium-priced. As companies work to penetrate new markets, especially in the Asia-Pacific region and South America, this sector has potential for rapid growth.
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