Medical manufacturers are competing to develop new devices that will make visits to the doctor’s office less painful.

The rivalry to make pain-free devices to test for and treat diseases is being fueled by Japan’s aging population and competition among hospitals to provide easier and more comfortable medical services, observers said.

Hitachi Ltd. has developed the first blood-sugar measuring device that does not require a blood sample. The company hopes to market the small, portable kit before the end of the year.

Hitachi’s new instrument reportedly measures the amount of heat released from the tip of the finger to calculate the amount of blood sugar in the body.

Terumo Corp., which specializes in medical goods and equipment, is racing to develop an extremely thin needle to lessen the discomfort of injections.

Company officials said the needle will be about half the thickness of those currently used, making it less painful. Terumo hopes to launch the product this year.

Fujinon Corp., a subsidiary of Fuji Photo Film Co., has sold 500 endoscope units that enter through the nose in the domestic market and an additional 100 abroad since it began marketing them in 2002.

The endoscope is thin — about half the size of conventional devices — and apparently less painful for patients.

An official in Fujinon’s general affairs division said its new endoscope gives the full imaging information necessary to make a diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Olympus Optical Co. said it is developing a “dream endoscope.”

The company, which has a 70 percent share of the world’s endoscope market, said it is developing an ingestible capsule that would both examine and deliver medicine to the stomach and intestines.

Company officials said the device would be swallowed and then take photographs of the internal organs as it travels through the body. It is also being designed to spray drugs on diseased areas.

Unlike a conventional endoscope, which is inserted in the body with a tube, the capsule would cause little pain and be naturally discharged.

An official taking part in development said it will probably be several years before the capsule is ready for the market, but when ready, it will offer great advantages to both patients and physicians.

“We would like to bring it closer to current endoscopes in terms of functions,” he said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.