Tech Innovation for Less-Invasive Endovascular SolutionsBy Jan Hogewoning | Thu, 09/17/2020 - 14:18
Q: How has the group’s presence developed in Mexico?
ML: Our group consists of a number of companies that work together. BMC Medical develops and manufactures medical devices; Angio Medical sells and distributes medical equipment, devices and medical products; Endovascular Health Services, or EHS, installs medical equipment in hospitals and clinics; CETE trains doctors, technicians and nurses in using our devices and the latest technology; CONRAZON, a nonprofit association, provides medical care to people with limited resources; BMA develops and commercializes natural diet supplements; and lastly, LABTAM distributes pharmacogenetic tests or DNA tests. Additionally, Levbeth Medical distributes medical devices for endovascular therapy on seven specialties
We represent 20 companies from Japan, Israel, Germany, India, Brazil and the US, many of them as their exclusive distributor. Our developer and manufacturer BMC has two factories in Mexico, both located in Nuevo Leon. Of the devices we sell, 85 percent go to the public health sector and 15 percent to the private sector.
Q: How have medical devices changed over time?
ML: There has been an evolution in health and the devices are now less invasive. For the past 25 years, we have worked on technology that helps doctors see what they are doing inside the body on an external screen. One method for this is fluoroscopy.
Q: What are the main benefits the final consumer receives from your company?
ML: We have a very broad portfolio of products. The goal is to ensure that doctors do not need any other supplier to fulfill their treatment needs and that they will have everything at the moment to treat the patient. We add new products to our portfolio every year.
CP: In Mexico, we are in a privileged position because we have offices close to our clients’ locations. Many companies that distribute devices only have one central office in Mexico and work with other distributors to get their products to the user. Apart from our main office in Monterrey, we have offices in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Leon, Queretaro, Puebla, Veracruz, Merida, Saltillo, Chihuahua, Ciudad Obregon and Tijuana. This brings us closer to our clients.
Q: What new products have you added to your lineup?
CP: In 2019, we launched and distributed a special stimulation device for Parkinson’s and another one to treat pain. This is a unique device because it can be operated by a doctor from an iPad, allowing the doctor to program the stimulation according to the particular condition of the patient. The patient can monitor their own parameters with an iTouch device. This system already existed but we brought the latest technology to the market.
CP: This year, various BMC products will receive the registration from COFEPRIS. One of these is a device called WEB that is used to treat brain aneurisms. We expect this device, for which we have distribution rights in Mexico, to be registered by May.
Q: How do your different companies come together to strengthen the group’s capabilities?
ML: For many years, we have been investing in developing our manufacturing capabilities here in Mexico. BMC’s plants are the first in Mexico to manufacture many of what we know as Class 3 devices. In the US border region, there are many plants with an export calling. Instead, we manufacture for the Mexican market, although we are also targeting the rest of Latin America. We want to make high-quality devices at a better cost in order to increase access to these devices.
We want to continue positioning the company as a market leader. The first pillar of our company is BMC’s manufacturing capacity and the second is our training center. CETE’s training program is the only one of its kind in Latin America. We have classrooms, an auditorium, special simulation rooms for hemodynamic procedures and a variety of models. Normally, doctors and health professionals receive training at a hospital. Another program is Universidad Levbeth, which is a web-based platform with instructional videos about devices and procedures. We invite both health professionals and patients to take part in these. People can follow these classes from anywhere and at flexible times.
Q: What improvements would you like to see the regulatory framework?
ML: This is a very regulated industry. The registry process with COFEPRIS takes between two to three years. Before getting to the registry phase, we have several phases of development and production. Some of the products we have developed originated from the ideas of local doctors who approach us. In other cases, we buy the technology, conducting the legal acquisition of intellectual property, and then develop products from this. At BMC, we have an engineering department with six biomedical engineers. They develop a prototype, search for the material, build the product and test its performance and biocompatibility. It then goes through the regulatory process. It takes four to five years before a product enters the market. Both the products that we manufacture and those we distribute from other companies have to pass through the same registration process with COFEPRIS.
Sometimes, by the time a product is allowed into the market, a new technology has already emerged abroad. This is why it is important to speed up the regulatory processes. Last year, we saw a faster registration process. This is an improvement. It takes the same time to develop a product anywhere in the world, but regulatory approval processes are much longer in Mexico. Of course, these procedures are important to guarantee the quality of the product. One way to fix this is simply for COFEPRIS to hire more people to do the job. They could charge companies more for a speedier process. They could also charge more if they provided a better service.
Q: What are your expectations for the Mexican health sector in 2020?
CP: I believe 2020 will bring more bidding opportunities from IMSS and ISSSTE, which already started at the beginning of the year. This will help drive our sales and acquisition of more devices in the coming years. In the private sector, we see more hospitals performing procedures with cutting-edge devices.
Endovascular therapy still needs to grow a lot in Mexico. Argentina and Colombia, for example, have much smaller populations, but the total number of procedures is two to three times that in Mexico.
ML: Many of our companies are still in an initial phase of development. Over the next four to five years, each of them will aim to reach a level of maturity. In general, we are optimistic because the market still has a long way to go to be fully attended. The percentage of GDP being invested in healthcare in Mexico remains one of the lowest in Latin America. We now see signs that the government intends to increase the availability of medical devices.
Levbeth Group commercializes and distributes innovative endovascular technologies for cardiology and neurology applications, among others. It also provides training to health professionals in endovascular procedures