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Contracts and kill switches: the business of reprocessing

by Lisa Chamoff , Contributing Reporter
From the January 2015 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

Nalbone says Covidien lowered their prices and began cutting deals with some of their high-volume customers. Vascular Solutions countered with even lower prices on their reprocessed versions, enough to stabilize the business and get customers back. Lisa Clemence, Covidien’s director of corporate communications, says the company doesn’t comment on competitor products or sales strategy.

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“At this point, we’ve clearly established the safety and efficacy of what we’ve done,” Nalbone says.

He points to a February 2014 study by Dr. James Isobe of the Baptist Vein Center in Birmingham, Alabama. The researchers found that reprocessed ClosureFast catheters performed no differently than new ClosureFast catheters in more than 300 patients treated between August 2012 and July 2013. The rate of deep vein thrombosis in the two weeks and six months after the treatment was similarly low in both groups, with four cases out of 198 procedures among patients treated with new catheters and four cases out of 397 procedures among patients treated with the reprocessed catheters, according to the report.

Physician education
While anti-reprocessing tactics remain an issue, several of the very large OEMs have accepted that reprocessing is in the market to stay, says Kaeleigh Sheehan, a project manager with Practice Greenhealth, a not-for-profit focused on green practices in health care.

“It’s kind of a huge win in the sustainability field,” Sheehan says.

A recent survey conducted by Practice Greenhealth found that the No. 1 challenge for hospitals looking to implement reprocessing programs is clinician pushback, even though studies, including a 2008 Government Accountability Office report, have concluded that reprocessed single-use devices do not pose an increased safety threat.

Sheehan says that physicians need to hear more from their peers on the use of reprocessed devices.

“Some of it is they just need to see more literature on it,” Sheehan says.

Chris Lavanchy, engineering director at the ECRI Institute, a not-for-profit organization that researches patient-safety and technology issues, says the organization has been following the industry for a decade, and “we have not really found any evidence to indicate it’s problematic or dangerous in any way.”

There are theoretical concerns, Lavanchy notes, or “people’s reactions to using a device that is only meant to be used once.”

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