PET procedures grow 7% in 2008, future looks promising
PET procedures grew 7 percent in 2008 to about 1.8 million exams, including rubidium studies, according to a report from market research firm Bio-Tech Systems. Although growth slowed due to lower reimbursement the past two years, some recovery is expected over the next two years, reaching 5.4 million annual procedures by 2016.

Bio-Tech said that expanded applications of PET in oncology coupled with effective use of the National Oncology PET Registry should help to “broaden the base for PET.” Although the dominant focus of PET is still in oncology, cardiology applications are increasing, including rubidium PET studies for myocardial perfusion. In addition, the firm reported that PET perfusion agents are being developed for cardiology that will help expand the base for the modality in this area. Several agents are also in development for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease that should be approved within the next few years.

“Furthermore, there are a number of novel oncology agents in development that will also stimulate procedure growth. Although reimbursement issues will have to be dealt with, it is likely that PET will eventually qualify for open coverage similar to CT and MRI, which will add stimulus to the market for both PET scanners and radiopharmaceuticals,” Bio-Tech stated.

In 2008, U.S. sales of PET scanners declined 14 percent compared with 2007, according to the report. Manufacturers took orders for 182 systems including refurbished units. Refurbished systems were priced at about half of a new scanner purchase and accounted for 17 percent of the units ordered. Orders have been declining since 2006 as users try to adjust to reimbursement pressures.

Nevertheless, Bio-Tech said that technical advances have propelled the average unit price of new systems to $1.8 million, with many systems priced at over $2 million.

The firm also noted that worldwide orders for PET scanners were down but not quite as much as in the U.S. There were 271 scanners ordered internationally, with a worldwide order total of 453 scanners--including refurbished systems. International orders declined about 7 percent from the previous year, which was a smaller drop than in the United States. Orders for systems have also increased from remote parts of the world that previously lacked the technological expertise to pursue PET.

“Growth of the international market should help cushion the downturn in the U.S for PET manufacturers. By 2016, the market for PET scanners in the U.S. should grow to about 360 units and worldwide orders should reach about 900 units,” the report concluded.