This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, August 21, 2001.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: On July 2nd, surgeons implanted the AbioCor replacement heart into the chest of 59-year-old Robert Tools. Mr. Tools was given an 80 percent chance of dying within the first 30 days, but he’s outlived and overcome almost everyone’s expectations. The company behind the AbioCor heart is AbioMed, and the company’s CFO, John Thero, joins us now from Watertown, Massachusetts.
Mr. Thero, thank you for joining us.
JOHN THERO, CFO, ABIOMED, INC.: My pleasure. Good afternoon, Neil.
CAVUTO: You’ve got to be a happy camper today, huh?
THERO: Well, every day has been a happy day. We’ve been working for so long — 20-some years for some people, seven years for myself — towards the day we were going to implant this heart. And every day that we’re doing well, and to date the device has performed, according to the surgical team, flawlessly. It’s exciting, and for him, the patient, Bob Tool’s a courageous man to step forward and make himself public. It’s nice to be sharing with the world more of the success that we’re seeing every day.
CAVUTO: Now, how long could this mechanical heart, whatever you want to call it, be in Mr. Tools before he needs a transplant?
THERO: Well, the idea behind the clinical trial isn’t so much to look for a transplant. What we’re trying to do is develop a device that makes up for the shortage of donor hearts that are available for transplant. We don’t know exactly how long the heart will go for. The patient, before going in, had less than a month to live. So every day that he lives at this point in time is essentially borrowed time. The goal here initially is that if we can get to six months, we’ll be feeling very good about it. We have systems testing in our laboratory that are well beyond a year and components that are going beyond five years.
CAVUTO: So let me get to the point here. He doesn’t have an infinite amount of time here. The goal is eventually to get him a human heart transplanted into him, right?
THERO: No, the goal is to get him healthy enough that we can apply to the FDA and ask for the patient’s ability to go home with this particular device.
CAVUTO: Wait a minute, Mr. Thero. Isn’t the goal here to get him a heart?
THERO: He does not currently qualify for heart transplantation. He came into this procedure with liver failure, kidney failure, internal bleeding, and had been rejected by two different medical centers for heart transplantation because he was too ill for that procedure.
CAVUTO: Is he still too ill to qualify for a heart transplant now?
THERO: His other organs have come back, which is credited largely to our device.
CAVUTO: But not sufficiently enough to give him a heart?
THERO: And if he were to continue to gain his strength, his body masses — he’s taking on weight and doing some physical therapy for his muscles — if he gets strong enough he may qualify for a heart transplant, but that’s not the course that he went into this with. The course he went to was permanent.
CAVUTO: You know what’s interesting is, you’d think, with all the hoopla and excitement and just notoriety of this unusual medical experiment going on, your stock would be going through the roof. But when we look at it, it’s not, and I wonder whether people are concerned that — hell, who’s going to pay for it?
THERO: Well, we think that the best thing we can do is continue to execute and bring the best device possible to the market, both in terms of length of life and quality of life. And ultimately we believe that the market will recognize that.
CAVUTO: No, there’s no disputing the medical marvel you’ve got here, Mr. Thero. I didn’t mean that disrespectfully. What I meant is, is Wall Street fearing that insurance companies are going to balk at this? I’m sure if I went to my boss right now and said, look, I need a mechanical heart, could you spare me a million or so, he’s going to say no. You know, I mean, he might love me dearly, but he might just say no. And I’m sure a lot of other people’s bosses are going to tell them that, so isn’t that the problem?
THERO: I don’t know. We don’t think so. In terms of the cost of paying for this, we look at three reasons why we don’t think that that’s going to be a problem and we’ve had some discussion with insurance companies along those regards. One is the statutory, that if you develop a device that gets approved for an indication which life-saving, there’s no other therapy, by statute it should be approved by the Medicare system. The second is the precedent side, which says that heart transplantation today — there’s not enough of them, but heart transplantation today is, in fact, reimbursed, and the cost of what we’re doing should be 1/2 to 1/3 of that over time. And then lastly, there’s a lot of money being spent today on patients who die in the hospital. What we’re trying to do is take that money, same pool of money, and redirect it to saving lives.
CAVUTO: John Thero, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
THERO: My pleasure.
CAVUTO: John Thero of AbioMed.
Click here to order the complete transcript.
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2001 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2001 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.