Media blitz focuses spotlight on Hologic’s new osteoporosis testing product

Blazing trails in the bone densitometer market, Hologic Inc. introduced in mid-March what it says is the ultrasound device to detect osteoporosis cleared by the FDA. The company describes a wide media blitz accompanying the launch as a major success. Waltham, Mass.-based Hologic, which sells its X-ray and ultrasound systems mainly to hospitals and radiologists, says more than 95 million Americans have been exposed to the message about its Sahara Clinical Bone Sonometer, cleared by the FDA following an 11-month review.

Consumer publications shining a spotlight on the product have generated much of the public interest in Sahara, says Hologic’s marketing and communications spokesman Scott Heidemann. A press release on Sahara went out to the top 25 major print markets, along with a video news release broadcast across the country’s major networks and affiliated stations in 156 news segments. Hologic also mailed out 100,000 brochures on the Sahara to a high-prescriber list of women taking estrogen and Fosomax. Subsequent to the product launch, about 15 consumer publications with audience circulations of more than 41 million said they plan to feature the product.

Part-in-parcel of the promotion, Hologic entertains an aggressive trade show/association meeting schedule, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (Sept. 17-19 in San Francisco), Primary Medicine Today (Nov. 13-15 in Boston), American College of Physicians (last April in San Diego) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (last May in New Orleans). The company also has a print ad running in Contemporary OB-GYN and Outpatient Care.

To address consumer demand, Heidemann says the company set up a toll-free number (888-659-8378) for inbound telemarketing. Hologic has already signed up several exclusive group purchase organization contracts with St. Louis-based AmeriNet Inc.; Purchase Connection, Chatsworth, Calif.; Hewlett-Packard Medical Products Group, Andover, Mass.; and MedEcon Services Inc., Louisville, Ky.

Using an in-house, direct sales force of about 20 representatives and a distributor sales team of more than 1,000 people at PSS WorldMedical Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., Hologic will promote Sahara to 200,000 private primary care physicians and gynecologists around the country, as well as to specialists like occupational therapists, chiropractors and podiatrists. The company will also aim marketing efforts at its usual customer base of radiologists, rheumatologists and endocrinologists. The product has been widely available in Europe, Asia and Latin America No dates listed.

Available for a list price of $30,000, the Sahara may be purchased through Hologic’s 63-month lease with a 90-day deferred payment leasing program. The 22-pound, portable device, which uses ultrasound to assess a patient’s skeletal status by measuring bone mineral density at the heel, is the first commercially available bone densitometer in the U.S. that does not use ionizing radiation (X-ray). It therefore does not require a licensed (RT) operator as mandated by a majority of states. “This, combined with ease of operation, low cost and small size, is expected to make Sahara an attractive package for office-based physicians,” Heidemann explains.

Patients using the Sahara place their foot into a box about the size of a computer printer, then wait 10 seconds as the sound waves painlessly penetrate without radiation. The machine analyzes the results and, a minute later, produces a paper readout with the bone measurement. “Training for operators using Sahara is pretty much taken care of in a 20-minute video that comes with the unit,” Heidemann says.

Hologic (NASDAQ:HOLX) boasts that Sahara will sextuple its market for osteoporosis detection equipment and Wall Street seems to agree. “Unit sales in the densitometer market are growing at a steady 5% to 6% clip each year in the U.S. and are a little slower overseas,” says David Crossen, a biotech analyst with NationsBanc Montgomery Securities in San Francisco. “Although the rate of penetration into these new markets is probably going to be a bit gradual because the Sahara is a new toy, the market potential is enormous,” he says.

Crossen predicts Hologic will sell about 400 Sahara units in the next quarter and about 1,500 in the first full year. That translates into $6 million in revenues for the quarter and $23 million for the year. Right now, the company’s revenues are at about $135 million to $140 million for their current fiscal year, Crossen says.

The analyst says the company need only worry about one competitor, Lunar Corp., Madison, Wis. , which is coming on line with a similar product called Achilles. Foreign companies in the running are only peripheral players in the densitometer market, Crossen says. r * * * * * * * *

COPYRIGHT 1998 J.B. Lippincott Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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