Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2001 (Revised April 2002)


by John T. Gourville


Synthes is the recognized leader in the U.S. orthopedic implant market, with a 50% market share in the metallic plates, rods, and screws used to fix severe bone fractures. Synthes' marketplace strength lies in the strength of its sales force and in the quality and reliability of its products. A major drawback to all metallic implants, however, is that they often need to be removed after the bones have healed. To address this problem, several major competitors have recently introduced polymer-based "bioresorbable" implants. In theory, these new implants remain rigid while the fracture heals, then gradually dissolve, eliminating their need for removal. In reality, however, some of these new implants have proven problematic--causing infection, incomplete healing, or the need for a second surgery. This leaves Synthes debating whether to enter the bioresorbable market and risk a high-profile product failure or to remain an observer and allow others to test the market and eventually validate (or invalidate) the concept.

Keywords: Innovation and Invention; Risk Management; Marketing Strategy; Product Launch; Market Entry and Exit; Product Development; Problems and Challenges; Competition; Manufacturing Industry; United States;


Gourville, John T. "Synthes." Harvard Business School Case 502-008, December 2001. (Revised April 2002.)