Valleylab’s AirForce takes wing through distributors

Valleylab’s AirForce takes wing through distributors – ValleyLab Inc.’s surgical smoke evacuation device

Traditionally a manufacturer that has shunned distributors and sold its products direct to its hospital customers, Valleylab Inc., Boulder, Colo., has undergone a major philosophical shift. Since October, the company, a division of the Pfizer Hospital Products Group, has been selling its lines of electrosurgical products through full line distributors under a distributor-neutral format. A variety of “kit-packers” are also utilized. In October, Valleylab received FDA clearance to market a new smoke evacuation pencil attachment as part of its AirForce[TM] System.

The system involves sliding the pencil attachment into the smoke attachment and snapping it into place. The product catches surgical smoke at the source and evacuates it through a hospital’s evacuation system of choice. It can also connect to a wall suction unit, but the company does not generally recommend this type of arrangement. Instead, it strongly suggests that a small, mobile Valleylab evacuation machine does the trick better. The pencil is compatible with all Valleylab generators and smoke evacuation systems.

At list price, the evacuation machine sells for $3,195, while the disposable pencil system sells for $10.50. A competing product sold by market leader Stackhouse Inc., Riverside, Calif., sells for $12. Medtronic, Inc., Minneapolis, also competes in this smoke evacuation market, which was once thought to be ready to take off when the Assn. of Operating Room Nurses recommended smoke evac use, but has stalled somewhat at the launching pad, thanks mostly to cost issues.

Valleylab uses its direct sales force of 70 to sell this and other products along with a small national accounts staff. The company, which positions itself as a premium manufacturer, is hoping to follow the trail of money that leads to the alternate care site market and hopes its relationships with distributors such as General Medical Corp., Richmond, Va., can help.

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