The 13 billion dollar point-of-care diagnostic industry is ready for the recent deadly outbreak of swine flu, says leading health care market research publisher Kalorama Information.

For several years the firm has been tracking the successes and failures of ‘rapid’ or point-of-care (POC) tests for viruses, including the small but growing rapid influenza test market. The current attention aimed at the epidemic strain of influenza A/H1N1 that has killed over a hundred people in Mexico and is appearing in several nations around the world may be an opportunity for test makers to demonstrate the need for rapid testing products.

"Although there is no marketed POC test specifically for the A/H1N1 strain at this point, it is likely common flu tests on the market will see increased usage," said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. "Physicians will feel an urgency to determine if a patient simply has the more common flu, and given the circumstances, they may not want to wait for central lab testing. POC tests are also more effective when patients see the doctor earlier, as they are likely to do when they hear of the epidemic, or crisis."

Due to the events earlier in this decade, including an avian flu scare and vaccine shortages, industry players have been stepping up product development efforts and several rapid test products exist. The influenza rapid testing market has morphed from an experimental area with a few products, into a considerable component of the entire point-of-care infectious disease market, which Kalorama Information values at over $500 million annually.

Quidel leads the market for influenza testing with its Rapid Vue product, a rapid chromatographic immunoassay which provides results in 10 minutes from a sample collected via a nose or throat swab. Competitors in influenza testing include Becton Dickinson’s Directigen™ EZ Flu A+B test, Inverness Medical’s Biax Now and Meridan Biosciences TRU FLU™.

Prior to this weekend, this had been a rough time for these products — all of these companies reported first quarter test sales were down as the result of a weak flu season this winter. It’s probable that this outbreak will boost revenues for these companies, and the stock market has already reacted to this possibility. But Kalorama believes something more fundamental may result.

"In a crisis atmosphere like this, the benefit of ‘knowing now’ that point-of-care provides is made clear," Carlson said. "This could be an important showcase of the need for faster testing, and that is critical for the long-term success of POC testing products in all of infectious disease."

Kalorama Information’s report, "World Markets for Point of Care Diagnostics," contains market projections, product reviews, trend surveys and company profiles related to the POC segment of in vitro diagnostics. It is available directly from Kalorama Information online.

Source: Kalorama Information