Firms in a race to treat high blood pressure

(Businessweek) With more than a billion people suffering from hypertension worldwide, companies large and small, from Minnesota to Ireland, are racing to develop devices that treat drug-resistant high blood pressure.

Among the most promising is a system that essentially burns the nerves in the renal arteries and eliminates the need for medicine, a technology known as renal denervation.

Fridley-based Medtronic, the world’s largest medical-device maker, was first out of the gate with the system, and is now enrolling patients in a first-ever U.S. trial that includes area hospitals. But St. Jude Medical, based in Little Canada, and Boston Scientific, which has 5,000 Minnesota employees, also have jumped on this technology.

Renal denervation involves a catheter snaked through the femoral artery up to the renal arteries, where it uses heat to deactivate the renal nerves. Analysts say the system is a global market that will reach $3 billion within 10 years.

“It is arguably the biggest market that we have seen in decades for devices,” said Thom Gunderson, a senior analyst for Piper Jaffray & Co. “Yet, it appears to be a relatively simple device and relatively simple procedure.”


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