Generic injector syringes and other unbranded medical devices may start to account for an increasing share of the US medical devices market as health care providers feel the pressure to bring down costs. As of 2013, the size of the medical device market is an estimated $125.4 billion, and is estimated to reach $133 billion by 2016. If a significant portion of these was made up of generics, it would greatly benefit both patients and medical professionals. Health care professionals would find their buying power greatly increased by more affordable generic medical devices, and this in turn would enable them to offer quality health care to their patients at cheaper costs.
The idea of using generic devices has gained growing acceptance following the groundwork laid by generic drugs. The idea behind generics is that, once a patent expires on a branded drug or device has expired, other manufacturers are allowed to bring generic versions to market provided that these have the same efficacy and safety as the originals. Generic versions of prescription drugs have helped to make them more affordable to millions of patients with limited financial resources who might otherwise either find them out of their reach or be unable to complete a full range of treatment. The term “generics” has also lost much of the negative connotation it may have had in the past, when these unbranded medicines were seen as inferior versions of branded counterparts (which were also viewed as the “originals” and thus, inherently superior to the ones that simply copied their formulation).
While consumers have been using generic drugs for years, the same model has yet to be applied to medical devices. As a result, the costs of medical devices have continued to go up as large manufacturers have continued to rely on patent protection to bar competitors from entering with more affordable alternatives. This in turn has kept the prices of medical procedures high, and pushed them out of the reach of many patients.
In 2007, however, Generic Medical Devices (GMD) became a pioneer in offering generic versions of devices whose patents have expired. Its first products to reach the market were the Universal Surgical Mesh, an implantable Class II non-active medical device that is used in laparoscopic or open procedures and the Universal Circumcision Clamp. These devices are offered at around two-thirds the price of their branded counterparts, ensuring that buyers enjoy great cost savings, which in turn may translate into more affordable costs for patients as well as direct savings for healthcare providers.
It should be noted that GMD is not focusing on highly complex devices that are considered life-critical but those that are standard-of-care and which have undergone minimal technological innovation, making them easy to replicate. Some estimates have placed the savings to the US healthcare system of the initial GMD offerings at more than $360 million annually. The success of these devices is expected to quickly grow the market for generic medical devices.
One example of a generic device that has gained wide acceptance is the asthma inhaler. A generic equivalent of the CFC albuterol inhaler was first introduced fifteen years ago, and quickly dominated the market because of their low prices. From 2005 to 2008, in fact, some 96% of the fifty million CFC inhalers sold were generic. However, CFC inhalers were withdrawn from the market in 2008 due to environmental legislation, forcing patients to use HFA albuterol inhalers, which are more expensive because they are branded. Fortunately, generic HFA inhalers are currently being developed since the patents on branded products are expected to start expiring from the end of 2010 to 2017.
Kemper Medical is a distributor that has stepped up to meet the growing demand for generic injector syringes and other unbranded devices. It offers premium-quality devices from twenty-four major manufacturers, with new products constantly being added. Their most popular products include high-pressure syringes that are used in CT and MRI labs. These devices are used as part of injector systems that inject contrast media into patients for diagnostic purposes.
Power injector syringes are ideal devices to have generic counterparts since they are classified as Class II devices. These are medium-risk devices that required more regulatory oversight to ensure their safety (i.e. condoms). The range of generic injector syringes offered by Kemper includes those designed to work with Medrad injector systems that are used in computer topography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) labs, and have helped to make the cost of these expensive diagnostic procedures more affordable.