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Bone Marrow Biopsy Technology: Not Ready For Prime Time?

Home/Bone Marrow Biopsy Technology: Not Ready For Prime Time?

Bone Marrow Biopsy Technology: Not Ready For Prime Time?

It all seems simple enough:  A well-trained med tech, nurse or physician takes a small, plastic hand-held tool, twists it firmly a few times.  He or she pauses–then removes a small, half inch core of bone marrow aspirate to be analyzed later by a pathologist.  It has been done this way for decades.

As medical procedures go, this is relatively inexpensive.  As a patient, I never stopped to think about how and why my hospital chose to use one type of bone marrow biopsy system over another.  I just assumed they chose the best, easiest and least painful system available.

WRONG!  Like most things in life, something simple can become twisted (excuse the pun!) and complex.

My original plan was to write this story from a patient’s perspective. I would compare, contrast and evaluate different bone marrow biopsy systems with a patient’s comfort in mind.

I soon learned things there were several intriguing story lines here.  As I write this, deep down part of me is screaming “don’t go there–keep it simple!”  I should write the basic story, focusing on biopsy system options for patients.

But that would be too easy–and I would be doing my fellow patients and readers a disservice.

So let me tell you a story. If it was fiction you might not believe it. But it’s true. Sad but true.

This story features every part of what makes human beings remarkable–good and bad. Some of the characters are hard working and caring. Others are cold and heartless. All believe they are doing the right thing.

Although I’m sure this true story plays itself out daily in clinics and hospitals in a multitude of departments throughout America each and every day, the story I’m going to share with you over the next four or five days is about competing interests and companies in a very small, specific nich’ of America’s medical equipment industry: The makers of bone marrow biopsy delivery systems, the reps who sell them and the doctors and hospital administrators who purchase them.

Sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? NO WAY! My story features more intrigue and deception than an episode of any prime-time evening drama.

But unlike television, here it isn’t easy to identify the good guys from the bad, or heroes from villains. Everything is a smokey, murky grey. And unfortunately, in the end it is all about profit.

Let’s set the scene. I spent the better part of two days at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meetings in Orlando last month, visiting with and interviewing industry sales reps, consulting physicians and company executives from the bone marrow biopsy equipment industry.

All were well-dressed and very professional. I visited with representatives from three different companies: HS Medical, Inc, distributors of the TrapSystem device, Ranfac Corp., makers of Snarecoil Biopsy Needles and Vidacare Corporation’s OnControl rotary powered system.

Although representatives from these three companies are the actors in our story, neither they, nor the companies they represent are to blame. Blame for what? And why should we care about what goes on in a small, relatively insignificant medical supply industry?

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go back to the beginning.

Our story starts innocently enough. In 2007 I met a drug company rep named Jason at a multiple myeloma support group meeting in Stillwater, Minnesota. At the time I found Jason to be personable and helpful. He helped me on several occasions while I still lived in the Midwest.

I lost track of Jason until I ran into him a year ago at ASH in New Orleans. Jason shared how he was now working for a company called Vidacare, helping to market a new, revolutionary bone marrow biospy drill.

I didn’t think about it much until I received an e-mail from a fellow support group member, named Gerry, asking me about the product. I shared Gerry’s e-mail with my readers in an article I wrote in the fall of 2009:  Report about Bone and Biospy Innovations.

I eventually spoke with someone who’s husband had tried OnControl and raved about it. I met Jason again at the 2009 ASH conference in New Orleans. There I heard more good things about OnControl.

This year, Jason asked me to stop by the OnControl booth for a demonstration. Jason met me outside the exhibit hall to give me a visitor’s pass and accompanied me to their booth. There I met a number of other members from the Vidacare team, including Dr. Larry Miller, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, and the company’s CEO, Michael Voss.

I was impressed with everyone I met with the company. So far, so good. No surprises or intrigue here.

While I was in the booth, I noticed two other competing bone marrow biopsy equipment companies I mentioned earlier were located next door: HS Medical, Inc, distributors of the TrapSystem device, Ranfac Corp., makers of Snarecoil Biopsy Needles.

I proceeded to spend 30 minutes or so at each of their exhibits.  My plan was to write a series of articles, comparing and contrasting each of the systems.  But it didn’t take long for me to stumble upon a darker side of the industry.  This is where the alarming–no shocking part of the story begins.

The stage is set.  The actors are ready. Tune-in tomorrow for more of “As the Corkscrew Turns!”

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat