VITAL Explores Cost-Effectiveness of New Procedure to Treat Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

VITAL Innovation Platform Funds Highmark Health Innovators Testing New Ideas to Improve Quality, Affordability of Health Care

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Through Highmark Health’s new VITAL (Verification of Innovation by Testing, Analysis and Learning) Innovation Program, Highmark Inc. and Torax Medical have agreed to assess the cost effec­tive­ness of treating patients with gastro-​esophageal reflux disease (GERD) using the LINX® Reflux Management System.

The VITAL Innovation Platform is a formal, rapid and compet­i­tive review and funding process open to inno­va­tors who wish to test new ideas to improve the quality and afford­ability of care.

This collab­o­ra­tion aligns with our mission to be a value-​based health provider,” said David Holmberg, President and CEO, Highmark Health. We look forward to working with Torax Medical and other tech­nology devel­opers to harness our payer/​provider busi­ness model in order to accel­erate and deploy inno­va­tions that deliver to patients the right care at the right time and cost and in the right setting.”

Torax Medical and physi­cian thought leaders have collab­o­rated for over a decade building a strong scien­tific foun­da­tion of evidence to support the safety and effi­cacy of the LINX proce­dure. Today, we are excited to announce this part­ner­ship with Highmark Health that will affirm the cost effec­tive­ness of this proce­dure. GERD patients who do not respond to medical ther­a­pies can create a tremen­dous cost burden on a health care system and are often at higher risks for compli­ca­tions resulting from not fully treating their disease,” said Todd Berg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Torax Medical.

An esti­mated 1 in 5 U.S. adults suffer from GERD, a chronic, often progres­sive disease that can cause debil­i­tating symp­toms and in certain cases lead to esophageal cancer. GERD is caused by a weak esophageal sphincter muscle that fails to control reflux of harmful gastric fluids from the stomach into the esoph­agus. Until recently, the only avail­able treat­ment is a more inva­sive proce­dure which requires a portion of the patient’s stomach to be dissected and wrapped around the esoph­agus to restore the sphincter. The LINX System is a much less inva­sive proce­dure for the patient. It allows surgeons to leave the stomach intact by using a small device to augment the sphincter; typi­cally patients go home the same day of the proce­dure.

LINX is a small implant comprised of inter­linked tita­nium beads with magnetic cores. The magnetic attrac­tion between the beads augments the existing esophageal sphincter’s barrier func­tion to prevent reflux. The device is implanted using a stan­dard mini­mally inva­sive laparo­scopic proce­dure and is an alter­na­tive to the more anatom­i­cally disrup­tive fundo­pli­ca­tion, commonly used in surgical anti-​reflux proce­dures. The LINX proce­dure does have poten­tial risks, and contraindi­ca­tions.

According to Blair Jobe, MD Program Director and Director Esophageal & Lung Institute at Allegheny Health, “GERD is a chronic disease with a high burden of recur­ring medical costs and a nega­tive impact on quality of life. The LINX proce­dure is safe, repro­ducible and effec­tive which should trans­late into reducing the high economic costs of life­long medical manage­ment and compli­ca­tions asso­ci­ated with tradi­tional anti-​reflux surgical options.”

About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network is an inte­grated health care delivery system serving the Western Pennsylvania region. The network is comprised of eight hospi­tals, including Allegheny General Hospital (its flag­ship acad­emic medical center), Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Forbes Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital and West Penn Hospital; a research insti­tute; Health + Wellness Pavilions; and a health care group purchasing orga­ni­za­tion. The network employs approx­i­mately 17,000 people, including more than 2,100 physi­cians on its medical staff. The network also serves as a clin­ical campus for both Temple University School of Medicine and Drexel University College of Medicine.

About Highmark Health
High­mark Health, a Pitts­burgh, PA based enter­prise that employs more than 35,000 people nation­wide and serves 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans in all 50 states, is the second largest inte­grated health care deliv­ery and financ­ing net­work in the nation. To learn more, please visit www​.high​markhealth​.org.

About Torax Medical
Torax Medical, Inc. is a privately-​held medical device company head­quar­tered in St. Paul, Minnesota that develops and markets prod­ucts designed to treat sphincter disor­ders utilizing its tech­nology plat­form, Magnetic Sphincter Augmentation (MSA). Torax Medical is currently marketing the LINX® Reflux Management System for the treat­ment of GERD in the U.S. and Europe and the FENIX® Continence Restoration System for the treat­ment of Fecal Incontinence (FI) in Europe. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.toraxmed​ical​.com.

Lynn Seay
Highmark Health

Maggie Wallner
Torax Medical, Inc.