Sober NASS Reflects Challenges Facing Spine Industry
This years’ gathering of the North American Spine Society (NASS) carried a muted tone that befits a stagnant or shrinking industry. Surgeons in NASS’ leadership spoke to the minimal growth in their own reimbursements and their concerns over how changes in the health care sector will impact the specialty going forward.
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The North American Spine Society is taking what might be an unprecedented step by medical society to help surgeons in their struggles with insurers. It has set out to write its own set of coverage guidelines, which would advise insurers – and surgeons – which spinal procedures payors should cover. NASS established a multidisciplinary 25-person task force to draw up the coverage guidelines. Eventually, the task force hopes to have compiled a book of guidelines advising insurers when a procedure should or shouldn’t be covered.
Founded at the height of the spine industry’s surge, Simpirica Spine Inc. has developed a dynamic stabilization device that is reminiscent in its simplicity and novelty of past interspinous spacers. The company will soon embark on a 400-patient pivotal trial in the US testing its LimiFlex against posterolateral fusion in treating degenerative spondylolisthesis. A successful outcome in the trial could help offset some of the setbacks the spine industry has suffered over the past five years.
Privately held DFINE Inc., a supplier of tools for treating vertebral compression fractures in the spine, is trying to reposition itself from being a spine company to an “interventionalist company” that provides tools necessary to interventional radiologists, neuroradiologists, and oncologists.
The company’s StabiliT Radiofrequency Targeted Vertebral Augmentation (RF-TVA) delivers a highly viscous cement that it says makes the delivery of cement into a vertebral body easier for physicians and safer for patients. Now, DFINE executives see the RF energy as a key to the door that could lead the company to much larger markets, enabling it to go beyond vertebral compression fractures and someday perhaps even beyond the spine to treating mestastic cancer of the bone.