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September 25, 2012

Medical Device Makers' Pocket Grow Fat Along with Americans

There’s one group that will benefit from America’s growing obesity crisis - medical device makers. As U.S. residents get fatter every year, there comes a significant opportunity for medical device companies to manufacture larger machines and products for larger bodes. Hospitals and patients are in need of larger imaging machines, longer needles and other devices designed to work for larger bodies.

"The U.S. is the biggest market for us, so every product we build has the obese American patient in mind,” Siemens Imaging Chief Bernd Montag told the Wall Street Journal. "It more or less has turned into a design requirement."

The story noted that, over the last 15 years, “U.S. obesity has grown 40 percent, now including one out of every three Americans.” Meanwhile, CT scanner diameters have increased 33 percent, from 60 cm (almost 24 inches) to 80 cm (over 31 inches) or more, according to one report.

But, the machines are an easy fix. It’s the challenge larger bodies pose to doctors, and procedures, even themselves. Larger bodies mean thicker tissues to penetrate in order to scan bones and organs, which could expose patients to dangerous amounts of radiation.

Rising obesity rates may certainly pad the pockets of medical device makers, but they may result in higher fees for all – costing as much as 40 percent, more than their predecessors, which most likely will be passed on to patients, according to the Journal.

Not surprisingly, improvements in medical technology that replace existing devices with more expensive versions are what’s causing skyrocketing U.S. healthcare spending, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Overuse of expensive and unnecessary medtech innovations is among the key drivers of the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in the U.S., according to a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

Experts say that, within the next 10 years, an astronomical $1 out of every $5 spent in the U.S. will go toward healthcare, and one of the eight factors increasing spending is advances in (and higher costs of) medical devices, the BPC concluded.

"Advances in medical technology are a major contributor to improving health and increasing longevity, but unnecessary utilization of new technology – especially where a less costly treatment would be equally effective – drives health care spending," the authors wrote.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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