Hewlett-Packard is moving to capture defibrillator market It signs to purchase Heartstream Inc.

Medical products

December 30, 1997|By BOSTON GLOBE

The electronic defibrillators that help save the lives of heart attack victims could soon become a common item in health clubs, airplanes, factories and offices. And the Andover, Mass., medical products division of Hewlett-Packard Co. is moving to capture the market.

Hewlett-Packard has signed an agreement to acquire Heart- stream Inc. of Seattle, a maker of lightweight, portable defibrillators. The deal is a stock swap with an estimated value of about $130 million, and is likely to be completed within 90 days.

Regular viewers of such TV shows as "ER" or "Rescue 911" often see portrayals of defibrillator use. The devices administer an electric shock to stabilize the heartbeat of a person who has just had a heart attack. Hewlett-Packard's defibrillators are common in hospital emergency rooms and ambulances.

But, for years, the American Heart Association has urged the development of small, computer-controlled defibrillators that can be used as part of standard first-aid kits. Steve Rusckowski, general manager for the cardiology products division at Hewlett-Packard, said of the 350,000 Americans who die annually of cardiac arrest, about 100,000 might be saved if defibrillation were begun quickly.

"For every minute you wait for defibrillation, your chance of survival goes down 10 percent," he said.

Heartstream makes a $3,000 device called the ForeRunner that meets this need. The ForeRunner is designed for use by anyone with minimal first-aid training, such as an airline flight attendant. The device includes a computerized voice that instructs users.

"It's much easier than a Macintosh [computer]," said Heartstream President Alan Levy. "The device has a built-in computer chip that analyzes the patient's heart rhythm and figures out with a great deal of accuracy whether the patient needs a shock."

Levy thinks the ForeRunner could become standard equipment in police cars, fire engines, and ambulances, and also in commercial jetliners, factories, and business offices. He said there is a potential market for up to a million of the devices in the United States, and a deal with Hewlett-Packard is the best way to tap that market.

Heartstream reported sales of $6.3 million for the nine months that ended Sept. 30, and lost $12 million.

Pub Date: 12/30/97

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