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More than catheters: Cook, Incorporated.

More Than Catheters Cook, Incorporated

The company that began as Cook, Incorporated, 26 years ago in the bedroom of a Bloomington apartment has spawned about 30 companies across the globe. Over the years, international trade has grown to be a major sales segment for Cook. The company sells its lines of catheters, wire guides and other medical products via a combination of its own sales force, foreign dealers and independent salespeople in Japan, Australia, Canada, South America, Europe, the Far East and the Soviet Union.

Phyllis McCullough, president of Cook, says that Cook companies dedicated to sales in the Pacific Rim, Canada, South America, Europe and Australia are performing well.

The company has annual sales estimated at $300 million, participates in no joint ventures and operates a tight ship in international trade waters. About 25 percent of its sales are overseas. In the 1960s when the company was formed, Cook concentrated all its efforts on developing domestic markets, says Miles Kanne, executive vice president of Cook Group, Cook's parent company. "We did not have any intent of doing exports until we became a viable business in Bloomington and the U.S.," he says.

"But after some time, the grapevine of physicians who had heard of our products really helped," Kanne continues. "Within nine months of showing products around Japan, Australia and Europe all became interested. For us it was relatively easy, because we didn't have to go looking for customers. They came looking for us."

Cook, which has a total of about 700 employees in its Bloomington and Ellettsville plants, has grown into an international conglomerate that includes about 30 separate companies. Most are involved in the manufacture of cardiovascular diagnostic products, stainless-steel tubing, plastic tubing and injection-molded plastic parts and pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical dispensing equipment. The company also manufactures disposable needles and syringes, urological equipment and cardiac pacemakers.

Domestically, companies such as Cook that work with physicians on developing new surgical devices are dependent upon the often slow and cumbersome federal government-approval process for their success. Recently, Cook has been lobbying Congress to speed up the approval process for medical devices, some of which have been locked in the investigational stage for years.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new Cook product, the Bird's Nest Vena Cava Filter, which prevents blood clots from traveling to the hearts or lungs of patients who have deep vein thrombosis, certain cancers or who have suffered bone injury or undergone hip surgery. The filter is inserted into a vein with a catheter and wire guide system.

Physicians have been using the filter on a limited basis since 1982 under the federal government's investigational device exemption. The FDA's approval, however, will make the device more widely available. More than 100,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed each year as having problems that could be treated with the Vena Cava Filter.

The company sells its products in China through dealers in Hong Kong. In the Soviet Union, however, where physicians have been requesting more Cook devices, it has been difficult to establish solid trade communications lines because of government bureaucracy.

According to Kanne, Cook has no set guidelines for establishing trading arrangements. They vary from country to country. Though Cook at present does most of its selling through its network of sales representatives, when it first got into the export business, it worked with independent salespeople and dealers. "Exporting takes a lot of time, but the rewards are out there," Kanne says.

McCullough is concerned about what might happen to European sales when the European Economic Community integrates its markets in 1992. The 12-country market will turn out $4.5 trillion of goods and services, placing the EEC behind the United States and ahead of Japan in economic strength. "We're working on 1992 right now," McCullough says. "Nobody really knows what will happen, but we want to be prepared for it."

PHOTO : Phyllis McCullough is president of Cook, Incorporated, a Bloomington-based medical

PHOTO : products company with an estimated $300 million in worldwide sales.
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Author:Werth, Brian
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:company profile
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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