Medical device companies closed 2013 with what seemed like good news, reporting the fewest number of recalls in 7 quarters, but that figure may be "deceiving," analysts said.
Recalls were down 20% in Q4 but the number of recalls alone isn’t enough to paint a rosy picture. Recalls posted in the quarter had significant reach, adverse patient effect and political impact, according to a study compiled by medical waste disposal company Stericycle.
Q4 medtech recalls reached further quarter-over-quarter, growing more complex. More than 75% of the quarter’s medtech recalls affected patients across the U.S. and more than 70% also affected patients in Europe.
A single unnamed device maker comprised 9% of the quarter’s recall activity, according to the report. Other high-profile medtech recalls during the 4th quarter included Intuitive Surgical’s (NSDQ:ISRG) warnings of stalled surgical robots and Abbott Diabetes Care’s (NYSE:ABT) recalled blood glucose testing strips.
The trend was similar across other health-impacting industries, including pharmaceuticals and food-makers. Although the total numbers appeared to drop, other compounding factors suggest a recall landscape that was more grim than at first glance.
"Even in categories where recall events were down, factors such as geography, amount of affected units and – in one recall – death show that the impact of a recall cannot be measured by the numbers alone," researchers said. "These are just a few of the elements contributing to the industry’s growing complexity. Each trend brings a unique set of challenges for brands, presenting new obstacles to overcome in order to effectively and efficiently manage a recall across the globe."