In the endoscopy device market, the reprocessing of single-use devices (SUDs) has historically been an annoyance of original equipment manufacturers such as Covidien, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, and Stryker. This practice, while providing hospitals with significant cost savings, is a problem for manufacturers because it significantly hinders new unit sales. Additionally, in order to compete better with reprocessed devices, many manufacturers find themselves forced to lower new device pricing, further hindering their revenues. In the US, this practice has become more common since 2008, when the Government Accountability Office released a report concluding that there is no evidence to suggest that reprocessed SUDs create an elevated health risk for patients. Current Food and Drug Administration guidelines on the topic can be found here.
While historically major manufacturers have been vocal in their position against reprocessing, a few have recently had a change of heart. In 2009, Stryker acquired Ascent Healthcare Solutions, the number one reprocessing firm in the US. Ethicon Endo-Surgery later followed suit with its acquisition of SterilMed, the second-largest US reprocessing firm. Together, SterilMed and Ascent Healthcare Solutions are responsible for reprocessing about 95% of devices in the US.
These acquisitions likely reflect the fact that more companies are realizing that reprocessing will be a permanent fixture in the endoscopy device markets continuing budgetary constraints combined with an unstable economy mean that hospitals are going to continue to look for ways to save money, including by using reprocessed SUDs. These recent acquisitions allow Stryker and Ethicon Endo-Surgery to capitalize on this trend rather than attempting to compete with third-party manufacturers. Furthermore, it gives the companies more control over the resterilization process, allowing them to ensure that the appropriate devices are being resterilized properly. Depending on the success these companies have, more endoscopy device manufacturers may also follow suit in the coming years.