by Lars Thording
, Senior Director of Public Affair, Stryker Sustainability Solutions
| May 31, 2011
From the May 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
First, the good news: reprocessing is making an enormously positive impact on health care at a time when genuine results are as needed as they are elusive. To many hospitals, the use of reprocessed devices is critical to their ability to sustain operations and deliver top quality care. In 2010, reprocessing programs helped hospitals save hundreds of millions of dollars. Savings of this magnitude can be immediately reinvested in patient care enhancements such as hiring nurses or the purchase of much needed equipment.
And now for the bad news: the widespread acceptance of reprocessing programs hurts the bottom line of some OEMs. Not surprisingly, this has led to aggressive action by some manufacturers to stop the use of reprocessed devices.
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The actions being pursued are not new. In the past, anti-reprocessing efforts have included advertisements and marketing collateral positioned as scientific studies that impugn the safety and performance of reprocessed devices. Those claims are unfounded and have been disproved. Furthermore, OEMs responsible for these claims have declined to address these issues with the Food and Drug Administration, suggesting that such studies do not accurately reflect the facts regarding the safety and efficacy of the reprocessed devices.
Today, some large OEMs are looking at ways to re-engineer single-use devices – and their supporting equipment systems – so they can no longer be reprocessed. There is growing evidence such technologies may only be a few months from hitting the market. Additionally, some OEMs are pursuing exclusive distribution contracts that prevent distributors from selling reprocessed devices. Earlier this year, distributor giant Cardinal Health entered into a contract with Ethicon Endo-Surgery that prohibits Cardinal from purchasing, distributing or reprocessing its harmonics products in exchange for the right to sell the Johnson & Johnson Ethicon Harmonic and Enseal lines directly. Ethicon Endo-Surgery has devised a similar arrangement with Owens & Minor. This is an aggressive attempt to lock reprocessing out of the market. More problematically, it directly impacts hospitals’ ability to realize the savings opportunities they desperately need.
Last year, 158 hospitals purchased Ascent-brand reprocessed harmonic scalpels from Cardinal Health and Owens & Minor. All together, these hospitals realized $4,281,665 of annual savings from the purchase of reprocessed harmonic scalpels. With original equipment selling for nearly twice the price of reprocessed devices, these are savings opportunities that all but diminish with contracts such as the ones Ethicon