Over the summer, Minneapolis-based
(MDT - Get Report), the largest maker of medical devices for the heart, acquired a small company called Transneuronix for its
Another big heart device company, St. Jude Medical (STJ - Get Report), plans to buy Advanced Neuromodulation Systems (ANSI), whose offerings include an experimental device to treat obesity. The product uses electrical stimulation, but Advanced wouldn't comment on the device or the progress of its development. As of Wednesday, St. Jude already owned 89% of the company.
Even with the forays into the weight-loss field, Medtronic and St. Jude have mainly been focused on heart-failure devices, which obviously treat a condition that carries a more immediate risk of death.
"If you need a defibrillator, you need it today," says John Putnam of Stanford Financial Group. "It's not like obesity, where you need to lose some weight, but over a period of time."Should the experimental gastric stimulators prove effective, Inamed's Lap-Band market would be an obvious target for both Medtronic and St. Jude, according to Jason Wittes of biotech research firm Leerink Swann. Implanting a gastric stimulator, similar to putting a pacemaker in a patient, would be less invasive than inserting the band, he says. Additionally, he says the stimulation products might even be used in a broader set of patients.