Aspire, a company in Philadelphia with a staff of eight employees, is commercializing a device to treat obesity developed by Dr. Samuel Klein, a gastroenterologist and obesity expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
Klein developed the Aspire device/therapy to assist a growing number of obese patients who had previously encountered problems with conventional bariatric surgical procedures such as gastric bypass.
According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, bariatric surgery was offered at only a few hospitals two decades ago, but is now commonplace at most medical centers nationwide.
Klein’s idea involves the modified PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tubes used for feeding patients with cancer of the esophagus or other illnesses that prevent eating normally.
Klein reasoned that if you add food to a person’s stomach through a PEG tube, why can’t you subtract food? Aspire Bariatrics has applied for a patent for a pump that can suck food out of the stomach.
The Aspire system starts with a patient undergoing a 10-minute procedure in which a gastrostomy tube is inserted down the throat and into and back out the belly.
“The patient is taught to empty the tube through a drain line that connects to the tube 20 minutes after a meal, a process that removes 40 percent to 60 percent of the consumed calories. The emptying process takes five minutes and is done two or three times per day, less after the patient reaches a maintenance phase.”
Katherine D. Crothall, CEO of Center City-based Aspire Bariatrics, says the aspiration process has a minimal odor and is done privately.
She said “people who use the device can continue to enjoy going out for a normal meal with friends and family, and don’t have the dietary restrictions and limitations that follow bariatric surgery.”
Klein has tested the device in about two-dozen patients in pilot studies with positive results. Crothall said the company expects the cost of the device and surgery to be about $6,000, compared to $17,000 to $25,000 for bariatric surgery.
The device is expected to be approved in Europe at the start of next year and launched in the United States in 2014.
The system is intended to be used as part of a therapy that includes reducing calories and increased exercise.
“As a safeguard against people simple eating too much and emptying their stomach whenever they want, the system has a safeguard in that it can only be used a certain number of times before it automatically shuts down and the patent has to go back to his or her doctor, so they can monitor progress.”
The Philadelphia Business Journal adds that health officials estimate more than 65 million people worldwide meet the definition of obese, including 25 million adults in the United States.