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View our reaction to the Financial Times article (Lex) on Medical Devices

Dear Editor,

Lex on 18th July suggested that, perhaps for the first time, the medical technology industry has seen cyclical impacts to demand arising out of the economic crisis and speculates as to whether these will continue. In my experience such cyclical events have occurred in the past but have been, as now, substantially damped versus the broader economy. The more dynamic sectors within the medtech industry have in the past matured rapidly (e.g. by-pass surgery), driven by highly competitive suppliers, to be replaced by new and more innovative sectors (e.g. minimally invasive surgery) which have entered rapid growth.

Two issues are central to the debate at the moment. Firstly, there is increased rationing of care taking place in spite of rapidly increasing demand driven by demographics. Secondly, there are only few methodologies which wholly assess the full value of medical technology innovation and in response many countries, health systems and hospitals are tending to establish barriers to the introduction of new technologies in an indiscriminate manner.

The future for the medtech industry should be bright given the impact of many of the technologies that have been developed to reduce the cost of delivery of care - hospital stays have reduced by 50% in 20 years as a result of such enabling technologies - whilst improving clinical outcomes. The vibrant and highly competitive supply side accompanied by a reorientation towards demonstrating economic impacts and broader social value will mean that the industry has a future that is central to delivering the high quality healthcare that we all demand at a cost which is sustainable.

Delivering high quality of healthcare will require substantial innovation in the way that care is delivered. This will need to be complemented by policies that ensure that governments do not squeeze the innovative incentives out of the industry in the mistaken view that the supply side needs to be controlled by more and more elaborate mechanisms that have been designed for short-term cost control rather than long-term efficiency and effectiveness.

John Wilkinson
Chief Executive of the European Medical Technology Industry Association Eucomed