Medtronic, Inc. (MDT): The Future Of High Blood Pressure?

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Medtronic Inc. (NYSE:MDT)Cardiology device makers haven’t had much good to report to investors lately. The entire medical device market has struggled with pricing pressures and other hurdles, but the headaches of heart devices — from mature markets to Europe’s financial crush — have ramped up the pressure on industry firms such as Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT).

This industry’s far from dead, however, and Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) has targeted what could be tomorrow’s best-selling niche: high blood pressure. Renal denervation therapies, used to treat hypertension by affecting renal nerves near and in the kidneys, are becoming a hot topic among device makers, and Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT)’s at the forefront of this revolution. But does this promising future of cardiac companies deserve your investment?

The future of high blood pressure?
It’ll be a while before Medtronic gets its renal denervation devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but the company has tried hard to win over Europe. Detailed in a recent report released by Reuters, Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) claimed that tough conditions across the Atlantic — such as budget-conscious hospitals — have been affecting the spread of its renal denervation technology. Still, Europe provides one foothold for the technology to catch on — and it’s servicing a big market.

Renal denervation is used to treat certain cases of hypertension, and there are plenty of patients to go around. The Center for Disease Control estimated that more than 28% of U.S. adults had hypertension between 2009 and 2010; that’s tens of millions of potential patients. While renal denervation technology hasn’t made much of a dent yet in the U.S. market and still has a long way to go to being widely accepted, even a fraction of that number is a huge potential customer base for Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) and its rivals in the space.

It helps that renal denervation is an attractive option for health-wary patients. Hypertension can lead to serious complications such as stroke and even death, and a small percentage of patients don’t respond to medication. Renal denervation offers a drug-free alternative that, while still gaining acceptance, could provide a life-saving measure for many afflicted individuals. That’s a potential blockbuster market in the making for forward-thinking companies.

So just who are the firms looking to take advantage of this next-generation therapy, and who’s set to take the first round in the rush to capitalize on renal denervation’s promise?

Sorting out the early leaders
Medtronic has made the first move in the renal denervation market, but the company said in its most recent quarterly filing that it’s on the path for U.S. approval by 2015. Its Simplicity catheter has already gained CE Mark approval in Europe and grabbed a foothold in Australia and Canada recently. That’s a good sign going forward. Expect Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) to be one of the first movers in the powerful American market with its experience in hand.

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