As health care facilities worldwide continue to grapple with rising costs, the reprocessing of medical devices has grown in popularity as a means to deal with tighter budgets (in 2012, US health care facilities saved approximately $290 million in supply costs as a result of reprocessing). More recently though, an organization called Pace4Life
has been in the spotlight
for promoting the reprocessing of medical devices to help patients in developing countries; the organization aims to collect donated pacemakers, which can then be retested and reused or recycled for use in patients who?d otherwise be unable to afford one.
According to this article
, approximately 1 to 2 million people worldwide die each year because of a lack of access to pacemakers, with the main barrier being the high cost of these devices?the price of a new pacemaker alone (without even factoring in the costs of the implantation or hospital care) often exceeds the annual income of someone living in a developing country. To address this, Pace4Life is now working with funeral parlours, mortuaries, and hospitals in the UK to seek consent from families of the deceased to recycle and reimplant pacemakers (which are often removed from the bodies prior to cremation to avoid explosions
Although the practice of reimplanting used pacemakers is not new, it has historically been limited to philanthropic efforts of individual doctors. A more formal process does not exist yet, and companies like Medtronic and St. Jude Medical have voiced concerns
that the safety and efficacy of reused devices can?t be guaranteed.
While questions around quality and reliability remain, clinical studies continue to be initiated to determine the feasibility of reusing pacemakers, and this topic was even discussed at the recent Second WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices in Geneva.
Overall, the road to get there might be a long one, but if organizations like Pace4Life succeed in their missions?and if a standardized process is put in place to ensure the safety and effectiveness of reprocessing pacemakers?it will benefit a lot of recipients who need the devices the most.