The Global Ventilator Race

An interview conducted by Jolyon Jenkins. Found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000j803

At 13:55

“I call up Dr. Barry Belmont, a specialist in medical devices at the University of Michigan.

–There’s something of a gold rush going on, I suppose. People will go rushing for gold and fools will rush in with them. I think there’s very good ventilators out there and there are very bad ventilators. There are things that are already used in hospitals, these are great ventilators and ramping up their production is a great thing. However, on the other hand, you have a lot of people that are developing from scratch all these new ventilators that are meant to squeeze bags and rotate camshafts and they have 3D printed parts and I think the rush to make more of those is not the best use of our time and resources.”

At 16:57

“No sensors. No alarms. No built-in PEEP valve. It wouldn’t meet the UK government’s specifications.

–How something like this gets approved is very disconcerting.

This is Barry Belmont from the University of Michigan again.

–We have not seen any of these working. Even though many of these emergency resuscitators are getting FDA and regulatory approval across the world, you know, they’re not actually conducting any kind of trial or saying ‘here, we’ve put it on a patient and their clinical outcomes have improved.’

But they keep coming. One sector making the most of it is the PR industry. I read in PR Week Magazine that one company began pitching their client’s ventilators the weekend of April the 18th, they say as of Monday it had generated 50 placements – they mean in newspapers – and more that 345 million impressions. And a phrase starts creeping into press reports: bridge ventilator.

–I tried to look up this term and it doesn’t seem to exist really before about April 1 of this year. And this bridge ventilator term, I think, is a branding term more than anything.

Do you think this term’s been invented to cover things that have already been made but which don’t really don’t have a great deal of use in the situation we find ourselves but if you call it a ‘bridge ventilator’ it sounds like it’s a thing rather than a white elephant?

–Yes. I think we should be focusing more on the public health side of things – on the care side of things – than the mere production of new medical devices. Especially medical devices that are being rapidly approved and whose follow on consequences we are not taking even a moment’s pause to consider. For instance, as of April 30, 2020, Venti-Now got their Model JM-P2020A emergency resuscitator approved by the FDA. Well, what happens if a year, two, three years from now that model is sitting on a shelf and has no manual associated and someone goes to use it. It’s either going to be used poorly or it’s going to end up in the trash heap and we do not need more medical waste.”