The medtech minute (or two)

August 08, 2019

Whose lane is it anyway?

blood-stained scrubs
Image courtesy @Joseph

Twitter group @ThisIsOurLane posted graphic images of grisly emergency rooms and doctors wearing blood-soaked scrubs following the mass shootings in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH, last weekend to show why gun violence matters to the medical community. The group was formed last year in response to the National Rifle Association (NRA) telling doctors to “stay in their lane” and refrain from engaging in the gun-violence debate. Speaking to why the images, as disturbing as they may be, should be seen, one person tweeted that doctors “don't have the luxury of not seeing these things—we do. We can look away, but we shouldn't. We need to understand.”

In an article in sister brand MD+DI, a business-to-business media outlet for the medical technology industry, Amanda Pedersen recalled a statement in February 2018 from former Medtronic CEO Bill George publicly urging executives to take a stand on gun control. When asked if that meant putting space between the companies and the NRA, George responded, “Absolutely, it does.” He made those comments in the wake of the Parkland, FL, mass shooting. And that led to pushback from the NRA: "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves," tweeted the NRA.

“Now that doctors are front and center in this debate, it's not unreasonable to ask if the medtech industry should take a stand, one way or the other, regarding NRA's 'stay in your lane' comment,” writes Pedersen in her current article on the MD+DI website. “After all, the medical device industry relies heavily on those very same doctors for help with everything from R&D to the adoption of new products. Medical device companies need doctors, and right now those doctors could use some support on an issue that they clearly are very invested in.”

Reader comments on the 2018 story would suggest that medtech companies are not welcome in this debate, acknowledges Pedersen. 

Commented one reader: “The right thing is to support the NRA. There has never been a gun crime committed by an NRA member, much less a mass shooting. NRA supports our right to bears arms and do it safely. First thing leaders need to support is enforcement of laws that are already on the books but not enforced. Sandy Hook and this latest disaster were both [mentally] ill people with known problems that were ignored by law enforcement. That is the problem, fix this first."

Another reader put it more bluntly: “Medtech should do NOTHING about gun control!"

Has opinion shifted? Keep an eye on the comments section of the article to find out.

How do you solve a problem like China?

trade war buttonWhile almost everyone agrees that China hasn’t been playing fair on trade for decades, not everyone is on board with the unilateral use of tariffs as a cudgel to persuade China to change its ways. In a recent article in PlasticsToday, Dwight Morgan, a VP at plastic resin distribution company M. Holland, said that the escalation of the tariff war is not healthy for the overall global economy and it’s hurting the plastics industry. The medical device industry is equally concerned.

While a handful of medical products have been exempted from the tariffs, most are subject to the same duties as other products. Medical device industry lobbying organization AdvaMed is on the record opposing “tariffs by both sides on medical technology products that help save and improve millions of lives every day,” said the organization’s Vice President of Global Strategy and Analysis, Ralph Ives. “We will participate in [the United States Trade Representative’s] formal process to try to convince the administration that medical products that impact the health and well-being of Americans should not be subjected to additional import tariffs,” said Ives.

An article in Verdict Medical Devices by Chloe Kent, “How is the US China trade war hitting the medical device industry?” notes that the “trade war has been particularly demanding for device manufacturers with supply chains that cross back and forth between the U.S. and China, as they are now subject to huge tax bills at multiple points in their logistics network.” To illustrate, Kent quotes Patrick Hope, Executive Director of the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance: “It is quite common that products will be imported from a manufacturer in China to their manufacturing facility in the U.S., where they are substantially transformed by and re-exported—often to China. Taxing these products on both ends of the supply chain [is] a disincentive to manufacture in the U.S.”

Whatever you may think of the Trump administration’s approach and the prospects for an outcome that is favorable to the United States and global trade in general, I think it’s fair to say at this point that trade wars definitely are not easy to win.

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