Healthcare Corporation Refused to Make Ventilators Because The Profit Wasn’t Big Enough, Thousands Died: Report

Liberal icon Noam Chomsky told Democracy Now that one of the main failures during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has been the “huge shortage of ventilators” (VIDEO BELOW):

Covidien, which makes fancy, expensive ventilators… shelved the project. Presumably, they didn’t want competition with their own costly ones. Shortly after that, they turned to the government and said they wanted the contract ended. The reason was it was not profitable enough, so therefore no ventilators.

The New York Times reports that in 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services called for the production of 40,000 new ventilators — which were to cost less than $3,000 each — to be added to the national stockpile.

Newport Medical Instruments, a small company in Costa Mesa, California, won the government contract for the low-cost ventilators in 2010.

In 2011, Newport Medical Instruments shipped three working prototypes to Washington D.C. for federal review. In April 2012, a senior Health and Human Services (HHS) official said the program was “on schedule to file for market approval in September 2013.”

However, in May 2012 Newport Medical Instruments was bought by Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, for $100 million.

In June 2012, Covidien executives demanded more federal funding and a higher sales price for the low-cost $3,000 ventilators, which normally sell for $10,000.

Covidien got an extra $1.4 million from the federal government, but three former federal officials told the New York Times that no ventilators were delivered in 2014, and Covidien executives told officials at Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (part of HHS) that they wanted to get out of the ventilator contract because it was not sufficiently profitable. The federal government agreed, and canceled the deal.

Covidien was sold for $50 billion to another huge medical device company, Medtronic, in 2015.

Charles J. Dockendorff, Covidien’s former chief financial officer, told the New York Times that he was “not aware” of the canceled ventilator contract.

Robert J. White, president of the minimally invasive therapies group at Medtronic who worked at Covidien during the Newport acquisition, said he could not recall the contract, but suddenly did remember after the New York Times published its article and issued a statement: “The prototype ventilator, developed by Newport Medical, would not have been able to meet the specifications required by the government, nor at the price required.”

The New York Times reports that the FDA signed off on a new ventilator, manufactured by the giant Dutch company Philips, in July 2019. The federal government ordered 10,000 units in December 2019, for delivery in mid-2020.

The New York Times notes that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on March 15, 2020, that the national stockpile had 12,700 ventilators to deploy; far less than the number requested by government officials 12 years earlier.

(Sources: The New York Times, CNN/Twitter, Democracy Now, Photo Credit: UW Medicine/YouTube)

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