Medical Devices Fit for Kids? Not

Think about this.  A three-week-old needs flexible tube through a tiny artery in her leg that winds its way to her heart to try to treat narrowed veins and arteries, the result of a congenital condition.

So what do they use for this? An adult-sized catheter.  Sound insane?  That's right.  Medical devices for children are not being developed because -- are you ready? There's no money in this.

The development of surgical tools and medical devices designed for children falls far behind device development for adults, The New York Times' Laurie Tarkan reports. "The lag, say experts, can be blamed largely on economics. The pediatric market is far smaller than the market for adults, making it difficult for companies to recoup research and development expenses for smaller devices," she writes.

This child was subjected to a procedure that took longer, and was more likely to "injure her already abnormal blood vessels," her cardiologist cardiologist, Dr. Alex Golden of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, told Tarkan.

“Innovation in medicine is driven by need, but also by the market,” Tarkan quoted Dr. Michael R. Harrison, the director emeritus of the Fetal Treatment Center and the director of the Pediatric Device Consortium, both at the University of California, San Francisco, in her article. “Big markets have lots of folks developing devices, but small markets like the pediatrics market don’t.”

And it's not just medical devices but chemotherapy and dialysis delivery systems, among others, as well.

Does this sound as unconscionable to you as it does to me?  Here we have children suffering and because there's just not enough of "a market," they will continue to.  It reminds me, too, of orphan drugs -- so-called because they treat only rare diseases, where there's not much mark-up.

We all want to believe -- at least I do -- that medicine and healthcare exist to do the best job for everyone. But sadly, it's a business and that cold, hard fact is sometimes very hard to swallow.


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  2. A medical device is an instrument, apparatus, implant, in vitro reagent, or similar or related article that is used to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease or other conditions, and does not achieve its purposes through chemical action within or on the body (which would make it a drug).[1] Whereas medicinal products (also called pharmaceuticals) achieve their principal action by pharmacological, metabolic or immunological means, medical devices act by other means like physical, mechanical, or thermal here More..........


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