A heart surgeon needs lots of tools such as heart valve replacement, tissue valve, heart valve repair ring, and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI). These products have one thing in common – that they were all developed by Edwards Lifesciences.
Edwards Lifesciences, the U.S. medical equipment firm, is not well known in Korea. The company supplied the hemodynamic monitoring system for anesthesiology department for the first time in Korea, along with the medical equipment mentioned above. Edwards is leading the related market, with 95 percent of its products ranking No. 1 in sales.
|Han Jun-ho, country director of Edwards Lifesciences Korea, speaks during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of its foundation this year, Edwards is actively promoting what it does in Korea.
Han Jun-ho, country director of Edwards Lifesciences Korea, said the company has the same goal that it had 10 years ago – “to put patients first.”
“We will aggressively seek our role to play in Korea. Through social contribution programs, we will pursue not only growth but corporate social responsibility,” Han said in an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.
Question: Edwards Lifesciences is not a well-known company in Korea, isn’t it?
Answer: Edwards Lifesciences Korea was established in April 2000. Before that, it was Edwards Cardiovascular Division under Baxter Korea. However, as the division was split off in 2000, it started its own business as an independent entity. At that time, the company had around 10 employees and posted 3 billion won ($2.7 million) in sales. Now, more than 40 employees are working, and the revenue has grown 10 folds.
Q: When was the most memorable moment while you have been working in Korea for more than 20 years?
A: It was when the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak occurred in Korea in 2015, which was a national disaster. At that time, the headquarters decided to provide our hemodynamic monitoring system for free to medical staffs and educated about it because we thought the system could save many patients.
I think this activity somewhat contributed to the treatment of MERS patients. We’ve also been supporting financially-burdened patients with heart valve disease through the Korea Heart Foundation since 2016. At the same time, we are doing a campaign to raise awareness of the disease.
Q: Do you plan to expand social contribution programs such as patient support?
A: Edwards established Edwards Lifesciences Foundation to make contributions to non-profit entities. The foundation has been supporting various health promotion and social contribution programs.
The foundation’s “Every Heartbeat Matters” program provides financial support for education, screening, diagnosis, and treatment for the vulnerable people who do not have access to adequate medical facilities and services from 2014 to 2020. The program has a grand goal of helping 1 million patients around the world who suffer from heart valve disease.
Edwards Korea joined the program in 2016 with the Korea Heart Foundation. Every year, the company is contributing to improving the recognition of the disease of more than 2,000 local patients. Also, we are supporting the operation cost for elderly heart valve patients in financial difficulty.
Q: How fast is Edwards growing in Korea?
A: Edwards sees double-digit growth every year, globally. In Korea, the company has been achieving an annual growth rate of 15 percent on average since 2010. This is an excellent result that stands out in comparison with any other country in the world.
Although Korea is a fast-growing market, it needs to grow more globally. For this, we plan to release innovative products and use clinical applications quickly.
Q: Whether your products can enjoy insurance benefits will affect the company’s success in the Korean market. How are your products being covered by insurance? Do you plan to seek insurance benefits for upcoming products, too?
A: Most products have either insurance benefits or particular benefits, in accordance with domestic health insurance policy standards. As our products are mostly innovative with new concepts going beyond conventional drugs or treatments, we need to obtain more modern medical techniques and more accumulation of clinical results.
We are doing our best to help Korean people benefit from our products, in close coordination with the government, government affiliates, hospitals, and the medical community. The Korean unit is closely consulting with the head office to promote this area.
Q: Do you have new products in preparation for domestic launch?
A: Edwards is speeding up R&D to provide a solution to treat a degenerative valvular heart disease (VHD), which is increasing worldwide as a result of rapid aging.
The R&D is underway on new Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement (TMVR), which allows non-invasive treatment of the mitral valve and tricuspid valve. Also, another R&D is on minimally invasive plastic surgery technique for mitral and tricuspid valve.
As soon as we complete clinical trials on the products and win approval in Europe and the U.S., we will introduce them to Korea. We will also keep upgrading the existing products.
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