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Obesity is good for business

The stats are scary: 2007 figures show that 66 per cent of adults in the US are overweight or obese.

Surgical Innovations specialises in the design and manufacture of non-invasive surgery equipment. With the explosion in stomach stapling and gastric band fittings in the States, it’s become a lucrative market for the £5m-turnover company.

“Our instrument range heavily targets obesity surgery,” says director Paul Birtles. “And we just landed a $20m contract to supply our products into the US.”

Surgical Innovations’ products are unique in that they are resposable. Birtles explains: “Our canulas can be steam-cleaned in the auto-clave. But the valves that come with it, which are harder to clean properly, can be thrown away.”

Huge American corporations like Ethicon and Tyco manufacture similar products, but these are single-use only. “It’s a lot more expensive for hospitals to keep buying in the whole kit that way,” says Birtles.

But doing business with the Americans can be labour intensive. “You’ve got to make them feel loved and wanted,” says Birtles. “Our clinical specialist spends a huge amount of time out there doing product training and making sure they get all the support they need.”

But, with this kind of explosive sales growth and further multi-million dollar contracts mooted, it’s a worthwhile investment.

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