Indian institute concocts a bargain-priced, ceramic-coated hip implant

India's Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute is on track to becoming either hip replacement manufacturers' worst enemy or a vital source of new technology. It has developed a ceramic-coated hip prototype that would cost a fraction of the cost of competing products currently in the marketplace.

As The Hindu Business Line reports, the institute came up with a ceramic-coated implant in its lab that would cost less than RS 30,000, or just under $530. That's less than one-tenth the cost of implants made by global medical device companies ranging from Johnson & Johnson/DePuy ($JNJ) to Smith & Nephew ($SNN), Stryker ($SYK) and others, as noted by Orthopedic Network News. Consider, too, as the article notes, that hip replacement surgery in India costs about a quarter of the price tag found in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere, and the industry has potentially either a problem or an opportunity here in the making.

Why, you ask? Well, India is a market of more than a billion people. And the global medical device industry is increasingly turning to India, China and other emerging markets with surging populations to grow their businesses. India's government wants to modernize its healthcare system and improve access, but it has increasingly focused on doing so by developing cheaper, affordable options for its population, undercutting what the multinationals hope to accomplish, in part through imports. Recently, for example, India slashed reimbursement for drug-eluting stents, which favors locally made products over the Medtronics ($MDT) and Boston Scientifics ($BSX) of the world seeking to export their stents to India.

The low-cost ceramic-coated hip is another step toward developing an affordable medical device that would undercut the international competition. It even has a longer lifespan: 30 to 35 years instead of the industry standard of about 20 years, according to the story. Unless a multinational company buys the technology, a local manufacturer will likely grab and run with it when the time is ripe. That time is a few years away, but it is coming, though the article explains that researchers will now test the implant in "elaborate" animal and clinical human trials.

And the medical device industry will likely watch pretty closely to see how the clinical trials turn out.

- read the full story
- here's Orthopedic Network News' hip price comparison