Submitted by Morgan Smith as part of our contributors program.
Foot pain can affect anyone at any time. From a one-time sports injury to standing for long periods of time, people that suffer from everyday foot pain have multiple options when it comes to pain management. For swelling and inflammation, medications such as NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) help reduce swelling while minimizing pain. Other treatments including shoe inserts and walking casts to help relieve chronic or long-term pain associated with conditions such as plantar fasciitis, the swelling of tissue that stretches from the toes to the heel of the foot.
Two sectors of foot pain management include over-the-counter treatments and foot and ankle devices – both show great profit potential. When investing in either sector, investors should consider demand and availability to patients, especially with those with limited or inadequate health insurance.
Over-the-Counter Medications and Treatments
Over-the-counter medications from companies like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) help relieve pain temporarily. Aspirin and ibuprofen also help treat other common conditions such as headache and muscle aches, cramps, and may lessen the affects of damage to the heart during a heart attack. Pharmaceutical giant Merck (MRK) owns the Dr.Scholl’s line of shoe inserts and other foot care and pain management products.
In addition to medication, companies like Johnson & Johnson also manufacture foot and ankle tape, gauze, and other products that aim to ease pain and reduce swelling inflammation. Readily available in most drug stores and online, people can easily purchase these items when they need them without a prescription.
According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, yearly sales of over-the-counter foot care products (medication and treatments) hover around $340 million. Even though investing in these types of products may not seem very attractive, people buy and use these products on a continual basis which means continual profits for manufacturers – a low risk option for those that need consistent returns.
Investing in companies that manufacture over-the-counter medications and treatments also help investors create a well-rounded portfolio. Since these medications help treat foot pain in addition to a myriad of common conditions, investors will always see a return on investment (even when a company introduces new treatments and medications that fail to attract as much enthusiasm from patients or physicians).
Foot and Ankle Devices
According to market research firm ResearchandMarket, the foot and ankle device market could reach $4.7 billion in sales/revenue by 2017. Due to an aging population, increased sports-related injuries, and health issues like diabetes, sales of ankle pins, screws, and artificial joints continue to rise. Companies like Wright Medical Group (WMGI) have a diverse portfolio that contains various products including the Inbone Total Ankle replacement. On the market since 2005, this replacement helps patients maintain an active lifestyle without having to endure every day pain caused by an injury or health issue.
In addition to manufacturing over-the-counter medications, Johnson & Johnson also owns DePuy Synthes, a company that specializes in orthopedic devices for foot and ankle, hand and finger, back and neck, and hip and knee. Depuy’s portfolio contains various products including The Agility LP Total Ankle Replacement.
It has been estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that 49 million people in the U.S. do not have health insurance. And given that at least 75% of people in the U.S. will suffer from some type of foot pain during their lives, many will not have the means to afford foot and ankle devices or surgery – they may, instead, rely on over-the-counter medications and treatments.
The cost to treat foot pain and injuries can be costly, especially to patients with limited financial resources. Diagnosing a broken foot, for example, can cost between $500.00 and $2,000.00. This does not include treatment or medications. The cost for foot and ankle devices such as an artificial joint or ankle typically costs much more.
Those without adequate health insurance will have to find other ways to pay for these devices or find alternative methods of treatment. Demand for these types of devices could wane due to the high cost for devices or a patient’s inability to secure health insurance that covers the costs of these devices – this increases investor risk slightly.
Growing Need for Inexpensive Options
For those with chronic foot pain or those that don’t want to rely on medications alone to treat their pain, shoe inserts can help. Shoe inserts and other supports reduce pressure on inflamed areas. This helps improve circulation and allows tissue to heal in less time. Patients feel less pain and, over time, may make a full recovery. Companies such as Heel-That-Pain provided patented shoe inserts that rely on over 30 years of testing and development. Inserts, pads, and wedges may help people avoid or prolong the need for surgery – a less expensive alternative as well.
Treating foot and ankle problems early can help people avoid extreme treatments such as surgery or steroid injections. People with limited or no health insurance, over-the-counter treatments or shoe inserts may be the only options.
Regardless of which sector of the foot pain management market investors choose, the potential for steady profits looks promising as demand for over-the-counter treatments and foot and ankle devices continues to grow despite the high cost of some treatment options.