A few days after announcing that it has obtained the CE marking for its single-use bronchoscope Pulmoone, Pentax has more news to share.
The company, which is the second-largest producer of reusable scopes, is starting a new firm to develop and sell these products on the European, South American and Asian markets.
It is doing this alongside Jiangsu Vedkang, which is based in China. The joint venture company has not yet been named and will offer "innovative single-use products to global clients," Pentax reports in a press release.
The company will do this through Pentax's sales network, strengthened by Vedkang's "exceptionally reliable and quality-focused production and research and development infrastructure," Pentax states, and the new firm will be based in China.
Cheaper production in China
The press release does not state which specific products the new company will promote, but Carnegie analyst Niels Granholm-Leth thinks that Pulmoone is an obvious guess.
"I think that Vedkang will produce Pentax's new Pulmoone product and its future single-use endoscopes. It is a bit like the arrangement between Olympus and Vathin – Vathin produces Olympus' single use scope because Chinese production is cheaper," he says.
At the beginning of May, Olympus announced the launch of a new portfolio of five premium single-use scopes for airway examination.
Boston Scientific quickly followed suit with its own single-use bronchoscope, Exalt, after obtaining CE Marking for it at the end of May.
I think that Vedkang will produce Pentax's new Pulmoone product and its future single-use endoscopes
Ambu has dominated the endoscope market for years, but the competition is heating up. Several of the players who produce reusable scopes are moving into the single-use area.
Ambitions are high – in May, Hiroshi Suziki, the CEO of Pentax's parent company Hoya Corporation, said that it plans to take over 20 percent of the single-use bronchoscope market.
Verathon and Karl Storz have also launched new products for airway examination.
Ambu faces challengers
Ambu is keeping a cool head over the growing competition, as the company expects the market for single-use scopes to grow.
Granholm-Leth has no doubt that the competition within the market is rapidly heating up.
"On the one hand, it will probably acellerate the transition to single-use scopes. On the other hand, it will of course create a battle for market shares. It will be exciting to see if manufacturers can maintain their current prices," he says.
The new players based in China offer significantly lower prices, while Boston Scientific's scopes are more expensive than Ambu's. Within bronchoscopy, the market has already transitioned to 30 percent single-use scopes.
However, the question is how much this will cost. Overall, I think Ambu has a strong position within bronchoscopes and ENT, but it will be a fight to establish a long-term frontrunner position within urology and gastro
"Within the ear, nose and throat sector (ENT), and urology, the transition has just started. Within the large gastro sector, it hasn't begun yet, and many doctors are still in doubt over the need for single-use products here," Graholm-Leth says.
Some hospitals have also begun to set requirements for the producers of single-use devices to accept them back after use to melt them down.
"A few hospitals in England have gone back to reusable scopes because of environmental concerns, but the manufacturers are working on a collection system," the analyst says.
"However, the question is how much this will cost. Overall, I think Ambu has a strong position within bronchoscopes and ENT, but it will be a fight to establish a long-term frontrunner position within urology and gastro," he adds.