Germán García
Director General
Smith & Nephew

Flexing Muscle in Midtier Knee Replacement

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 14:06

Midtier knee replacements designed with affordability and quality in mind offer a solution for shrinking health budgets in emerging countries like Mexico. Prosthesis and medical devices manufacturer Smith & Nephew believes the key clues to reducing costs can be found in the specifics of the population.

Knee replacement, a form of arthroscopy, is a common procedure performed daily worldwide. It is most often done on patients over 50 years-old, with over 90 percent experiencing dramatic pain relief after the surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

ANTHEM, Smith & Nephew’s artificial knee, was developed in emerging countries worldwide, where the population is typically shorter than Americans and Europeans. The company has also simplified the replacement process, as it requires only three trays of surgical tools rather than the seven previously required, which also reduces the overall cost.

“This product is the combination of two innovations: it is specifically designed for Latin American and Asian markets due to the size of the population and we have simplified the number of pieces required for the procedures,” says Germán García, Smith & Nephew’s Director General for Mexico. “During the research phase, we began by identifying bone characteristics of patients and then we identified the best fit for those bones, combining the skills of researchers, physicians and marketing personnel to also reduce the number of pieces.”

Smith & Nephew works in both medical devices and arthroscopy, the latter of which represents around a third of its yearly sales and between 30 to 45 percent of the Mexican market, thanks to a focus on cost efficiency and innovation. The global arthroscopy market was valued at US$4.0 billion in 2015, according to Grand View Research.

“We know that in developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia the public sector budget is constrained, so we try to develop products that are affordable for that sector while maintaining quality. We implement innovation to reduce the price,” García says. The company, which specializes in advanced wound management, sports medicine, orthopedic reconstruction and trauma, works with both the public and private sector. In Mexico, around 90 percent of its medical devices go to the public sector, its largest single purchaser in the country.

“Innovation can drive costs down for the system. Sometimes an innovative product is less expensive, more efficient and carries many benefits for patients,” García adds.

Speaking to general market trends in medical devices, García says that “the trend is to make smaller products and less invasive procedures for the faster recovery of the patient.” The materials used are also relevant. Smith & Nephew has developed highly resistant plastics that are lighter and less expensive than metal and can be used safely for instruments and specific parts of prosthetics. A knee prosthetic with these plastics can last for over 20 years. The company also develops tools to perform arthroscopy, such as TWINFIX, used for repairing joints. “This device is friendly for physicians and the fixation products we use are high quality,” says García.

Despite the government being a large client, doing business with it is not so easy. “We have to develop a tender for our new products, it does not come automatically,” García says. “We must first present the product then talk to doctors and institutions so they can develop the tender and then we can participate.”

Registering a new device can also be time-consuming, taking as much as two years. García calls for simplification of the registration process because the medical devices industry evolves rapidly. He also hopes for improved access to medical devices in Mexico. “Half the population has Seguro Popular, which is limited because it covers only catastrophic diseases. They do not have access to advanced medical products,” he says. But he is optimistic about growth in the country. “The medical devices market in Mexico is underdeveloped, which means there are many opportunities to grow.”