BOSTON — When Art Garofalo collapsed while working out this spring, health-club workers revived him with CPR and a defibrillator that jolted his weakened heart.
Mr. Garofalo, 61, did not have a history of heart problems and is far along the road to recovery. But the experience frightened him enough that he bought an automatic external defibrillator (AED), which he keeps at his home in Weston, about 15 miles west of Boston, in case a relative or friend needs it while visiting.
“It’s just a protective measure,” he said. “Like a fire extinguisher.”
Some medical device companies are hoping more people such as Mr. Garofalo are scared enough about having a heart attack that they will go out and get their own personal defibrillators.
These defibrillators for laymen do not require a medical degree. The machine talks people through the process of sending an electric shock to restart a person’s heart. Combined with CPR, an AED can keep a cardiac-arrest victim’s heart beating until rescuers arrive.
Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., so the potential market is sizable. More than 100,000 AEDs already are sold each year, mainly to businesses and municipalities, generating more than $300 million in sales annually, said Nathan H. Cohen, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a consulting company.
The defibrillators’ market potential is not clear since over-the-counter sales were approved last year and only for one model; other manufacturers must apply for separate approvals. But industry experts hope people will see the machines as an important part of a safe home, such as a smoke detector.
Philips Home Medical, a division of Royal Philips Electronics, began over-the-counter sales of AEDs on Amazon.com, Staples.com and other Web sites last year after receiving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s approval in September to sell them over the counter. Before Philips earned the approval, customers needed a prescription to buy the device.
Since September, Philips has sold more than 6,000 AEDs over the counter at $1,500 each, Mr. Packard said, the bulk of them through online sales.
Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc. is focusing on the home market, too, using online sales and a catalog geared toward older men to get its prescription-only AEDs into homes. Medtronic also is pursuing FDA permission to sell one of its $2,000 models over the counter, said Joyce Szymanski, the company’s spokeswoman.
While Philips and Medtronic concentrate on the consumer market, other manufacturers are looking outside the home for growth, considering other markets far from saturated. States including New York and Illinois have passed laws requiring AEDs in certain municipal facilities, further driving purchases of the devices by businesses.
More than 1 million Americans have heart attacks each year. But when a defibrillator is used within five to seven minutes after the heart attack begins, nearly half of the victims survive, said the American Heart Association (AHA).
The AHA supports the devices but cautions that CPR must remain part of emergency care, even if a defibrillator is used.