Thoratec Buys Heartware to Expand LVAD Market
Thoratec's 34% increase in the revenue for 2008 was largely due to the introduction of its left ventricular assist device HeartMate II, a small axial flow pump weighing only 12 oz. while previous devices weighed three pounds. It took more than seventeen years for the HeartMate II to wend its way through development to the marketplace success that it is today, and that's not unusual in the LVAD space. But now, next generation LVADs with advantages are already nipping at Thoratec's heels. Thoratec's solution: consolidation. On February 13, Thoratec announced that it would acquire publicly-traded Australian LVAD company HeartWare International for $282 million, half in stock and half in cash.
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After struggling for years to gain momentum, the ventricular assist device market appears finally to be coming of age. Second-generation VAD designs are performing well and seem to have largely addressed the pump durability and safety issues of the past that stymied growth and prevented this market from reaching its full potential. In the process, these new pumps, and their third-generation counterparts now waiting in the wings, are revitalizing interest in VADs among both physicians and patients, and propelling this potential multibillion dollar market to the forefront once again.
Thoratec's Bleeding Edge
The striking results of the REMATCH trial, demonstrating the efficacy of Thoratec's ventricular assist device to extend the life of terminal heart failure patients, is heartening clinicians and patients and opening up new markets for ventricular assist device manufacturers. Thoratec still faces FDA and reimbursement hurdles before its devices become long-term therapies in large volumes of patients. Meanwhile, the competition hopes to profit from the precedent-breaking REMATCH results, and overtake Thoratec's lead with claims of technological superiority in the long-term heart assist market.