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Medtronic CEO Speaks Out on the Spine Market BY LAUREN UZDIENSKI, NOVEMBER 18, 2010

At the Wall Street Journal CEO Council event this week, Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins addressed some of the challenges in the spine market. Speaking to the NEJM studies and their impact on VCF procedures, pricing and reimbursement, Hawkins acknowledged that the sector is under pressure. He also concluded that "from a high level, demand for better spinal therapies remains high," as reported by the WSJ.

One of the more visible issues in recent quarters has been payer pushback on certain fusion procedures, notably relating to degenerative disc disease. NuVasive commented on these insurer denials on their 3Q:10 call in October, stating that "our checks suggest that roughly 10% to 20% of procedures are being canceled outright when degenerative disc disease is an indication . . . as a result our visibility is very limited right now and we cannot be sure when procedural growth will return to the industry."

Hawkins was more optimistic, saying, "I don't know what compelled [NuVasive] to be so dramatic." He also noted that Medtronic's spine offering addresses a variety of procedures beyond fusion, adding that these applications are "underpinned by good evidence."

Medtronic will report earnings for the quarter ended October 29, 2010 on November 23.

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