God help thee, whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus

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The iconic American writer Herman Melville references the plight of the mythological Greek god Prometheus, who dared to reveal the guarded technological advancement of fire to human beings, and was therefore punished by having a vulture—or eagle, depending on the version—eat out his liver on a daily basis. As a result, Prometheus has been heralded as a great champion of human development and progression. Since that time, humans have learned to wield technology to improve and, potentially, prolong our lives. And cardiovascular device makers are reaping the benefits of these progressions, as evidenced by their third quarter financial statements.

Boston Scientific booked strong quarterly earnings due to strong global drug- eluting stent sales and an 8 percent jump in its cardiac rhythm management (CRM) division. Increased ICD and pacemaker sales helped its CRM sales, as electrophysiology results remained flat in the U.S. and fell internationally.

Even though St. Jude Medical posted a 2 percent drop in net income, its total net sales rose by 7 percent. Its CRM division also saw a 2 percent increase, and its atrial fibrillation device sales came up strong with double-digit profits. Also, St. Jude’s cardiovascular sales, which primarily include vascular closure and heart valve products, rose with an 11 percent increase.

Finally, Edwards Lifesciences, which also dabbles in a variety of cardiovascular technologies, reported a double-digit income increase over the third quarter of last year. The company’s gains were mainly by its heart valve therapy sector, which included a doubling of transcatheter heart valve sales. Edwards’ CEO predicted that its transcatheter heart valve sales will reach approximately $110 million for 2009.

Also, new technologies must pass the threshold requirements for safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness before they can be adopted by providers. One such evaluation--of the investigational implantable carotid body stimulator Rheos from CVRx, used to regulate blood pressure--came up inconclusive for cost effectiveness. The study authors noted that its cost effectiveness is dependent on the starting systolic blood pressure, performance of the device and risks of the target population.

While Melville faults Prometheus for reaching too far beyond his means, he also recognized the importance of pursuing feats that technological advancement requires: He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.

On these topics, or any others, please feel free to contact me.

Justine Cadet