Led by Medtronic, hypertension devices could pay big in the U.S.

About one-third of the 1.2 billion people with hypertension have drug-resistant ailments, and that makes for a lucrative market for devicemakers Bloomberg reports.

Led by Medtronic ($MDT) and its Symplicity system, the hypertension device market could swell to $4.4 billion annually, according to a Millennium Research Group analyst. That's if the renal denervation systems get U.S. approval, of course, which has yet to happen. Many of the implants are available in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, but the FDA has yet to give its blessing.

Devicemakers are clearly aware of the opportunity, and Medtronic isn't the only one chasing big profits in hypertension. Covidien ($COV) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ) are also working on hypertension-targeting systems, and there are 62 in-development devices for the disorder, Bloomberg points out. As you might expect, however, the big firms are leading the way, and Medtronic expects to get Symplicity on the U.S. market by 2015.

The potential profits have already spurred a spat between Medtronic and St. Jude, after the latter boasted that its EnligHTN renal denervation device was twice as effective in reducing blood pressure as Symplicity. Medtronic, in turn, dismissed the trial results as merely "hypothesis-generating."

As Bloomberg notes, a boom in hypertension devices would be a welcome development for the device industry, which has struggled over the past four years with recalls, litigation and regulatory woes, leading to a 7% decline in Standard & Poor's Healthcare Equipment Index. 

- read the Bloomberg story