High costs forced MEDTRONIC, INC. to end production of implantable cardiac pacemakers at its plant in Chitose on the northern island of Hokkaido. That output, equivalent to annual sales of $51.9 million to $59.3 million, was transferred to the Minneapolis company's plants in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States. The fact that its subsidiary had to import about half of all parts going into the pacemakers was the primary reason onshore production was not profitable. Medtronic, which controls roughly 35 percent of Japan's pacemaker market, now is importing products from Europe and the United States. The Chitose facility continues to assemble equipment that functions as a heart-lung machine during open-heart surgery (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 335, August 1997, p. 14). It also will be used for new product development and as a pacemaker training center.
Through SHIMADZU CORP., the nuclear medicine division of PICKER INTERNATIONAL, INC. introduced IRIX, the industry's first large field-of-view, variable- angle, triple-detector gamma camera, and a new version of AXIS, a dual-detector, variable-angle camera. Both incorporate the Cleveland firm's variable tangential technology, billed as a breakthrough in patient contouring for nuclear medicine procedures. The IRIX system, priced at $2.2 million, can do everything from whole body and planar imaging to imaging for cardiology and oncology diagnoses. The $16,800 AXIS is said to be the first variable-angle, dual-detector camera that is upgradable to a triple-detector system.
Rival GE Medical Systems of Waukesha, Wisconsin, part of GENERAL ELECTRIC CO., released three additions to its HiSpeed computed tomography product line designed for hospitals and other diagnostic imaging facilities that cannot afford its premium scanner. The two machines spanning the middle price points -- the HiSpeed FX/i ($3 million) and the HiSpeed LX/i ($3.3 million) -- are available in Japan through GE- YOKOGAWA MEDICAL SYSTEMS, LTD. These CT systems are built around SILICON GRAPHICS, INC.'s line of high-end graphics workstations. Like the other members of the series, they come with software that automatically completes all tasks required during an exam, including multiple reconstructions, multiple films, archiving and network transfers.
BIOLASE TECHNOLOGY, INC., a San Clemente, California manufacturer of laser- based products for the medical profession and dentists, signed an exclusive distribution agreement with MEDITEC CORP., a wholly owned MARUBENI CORP. company. The three-year, $10.7 million minimum purchase deal covers the Millennium for dentistry and the DermaLase for such medical applications as tumor and cyst removal and wrinkle removal. Both systems incorporate Biolase's HydroKinetic technology, which combines the power of a laser with water to form high-speed, atomized water particles that act as the cutting tool in place of thermal heat. The agreement goes into effect once the Ministry of Health and Welfare clears the products for sale. That approval is expected during FY 1999.
MHW approved for marketing VISX, INC.'s excimer laser system for phototherapeutic keratectomy, a procedure to treat corneal scars and dystrophies of the eye. The Santa Clara, California company is the first U.S. manufacturer to win such approval, although testing started in early 1993. Its subsidiary will distribute and service the system. Japan is the world's second-largest market for laser vision correction.
COM-POWER CORP. has awarded ORIX LENTECH CORP. sole rights to market its Near Field System, which enables engineers to locate the source of electromagnetic interference at the system level. That identification means that noise can be suppressed at the source, a more effective and less expensive way of lowering emissions than the commonly employed techniques of shielding and filtering. The Lake Forest, California company's NF-110 system, which costs $14,500, consists of a near field probe set, a preamplifier and a portable spectrum analyzer.
A nonincineration method for handling hazardous and nonhazardous wastes will be commercially available in Japan next year. STARTECH ENVIRONMENTAL CORP. of Wilton, Connecticut has contracted with ENVIPAC PARTNERS, INC. to sell its plasma waste converter, which remediates and processes wastes through a system of molecular dissociation. EnviPac, which has offices in Hiroshima and Hawaii, is required to purchase an industrial-sized PWC demonstration system in 1998 and to meet minimum annual sales levels starting in 1999.
An exchange rate of ¥135=$1.00 was used in this report.