How medtech has fought COVID-19
This year has been such a challenging time for the U.S. and the world that 2019 feels like it was 100 years ago. But even as COVID-19 claimed more than 1.3 million lives, I’m proud to cover an industry that has sought to stem the tide.
The information in this year’s annual Big 100 rankings of the world’s largest medical device companies is as interesting as ever. (I’d like to especially thank our senior editor Danielle Kirsh for combing through so many financial filings to compile much of the data.) But with many corporate fiscal years in the report ending in December 2019, it almost feels like we’re describing a land before time.
The 100 companies on this year’s list had medical device business bringing in a whopping $420.5 billion during their most recent fiscal years — a nearly 6% increase from our 2019 list. We’ll have to wait until next year, though, to truly gauge the effect that the coronavirus and resulting recession had on the industry.
Medical device companies certainly weren’t recession-proof this time around. The pandemic has caused a curtailment of elective procedures — and sometimes even not-so-elective procedures — as health providers focus on managing COVID-19 and patients stay away in droves.
Major companies have generally reported recovery in procedure volume in the third quarter of 2020, but we’ll have to see whether the trend holds up as a new wave of coronavirus cases hits the world.
Even as medtech companies work through major challenges, though, I’m struck by the important work they’re doing to help humanity manage this crisis. Here are but a few examples that stuck out to me as I wrote short updates about the world’s 20 largest medical device companies:
- Medtronic publicly shared its ventilator IP to help alleviate shortages of the machines.
- Johnson & Johnson is among the companies that have COVID-19 vaccine candidates being evaluated in Phase 3 clinical trials.
- The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for patient monitors, ventilators and digital health products coming out of Philips’ Connected Care business.
- GE Healthcare is also a major producer of ventilators needed to treat people with severe COVID-19 cases.
- Abbott, Siemens Healthineers, BD and Danaher are among the top providers of COVID-19 tests.
- 3M, Medline Industries, Cardinal Health and Henry Schein are important providers of protective equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves to protect health workers from the coronavirus.
- Medline agreed to reprocess tens of thousands of N95 respirators and other face masks per day in its facilities — and it started cranking out hand sanitizer at an infection-prevention products plant in Wisconsin.
- Baxter is also playing a crucial role because of the need for kidney dialysis machines and infusion pumps to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.
- BD has commitments for over 800 million needles and syringes to deliver future COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., UK, Canada and elsewhere.
It isn’t just the pandemic and recession that have made things tough this year. In the U.S., we’ve had a long-overdue reckoning with our country’s national sin of racism, a depressingly divisive presidential election — and just to make things even worse, huge wildfires in the West and big hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.
I think that Medtronic’s new CEO Geoff Martha has the right idea when it comes to how the industry should approach 2021.
“I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward,” Martha said during The Virtual Medtech Conference hosted by AdvaMed in October. He later added: “As painful as it’s been over the past couple of months, the new normal is exciting.”
Medical Design & Outsourcing