Kaleida, other systems sue maker of da Vinci surgical robots over alleged monopoly

At least three health systems have filed class-action lawsuits against Intuitive Surgical, alleging the medical device company imposes a monopoly that forces healthcare providers to purchase its replacement parts and maintenance services at high prices.

Intuitive's chief product is the da Vinci surgical robot, a minimally invasive surgical system that a surgeon controls from a console. The system requires service contracts, replacement instruments and accessories to keep running.

The lawsuits allege that Intuitive forces healthcare providers to pay high prices for parts and service contracts, even though there are cheaper options available. 

Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Health filed its class-action lawsuit against Intuitive July 6, and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Kaleida Health filed its own class-action lawsuit July 8. Renton, Washington-based Valley Medical Center also recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Intuitive, according to Axios.

The health systems allege that they cannot have their da Vinci systems serviced by third parties because Intuitive forces them into yearslong exclusive servicing agreements. They also allege the company limits how many times the system's accessories and attachments can be used before having to buy another.

"There is risk associated with deviating from the validated processes cleared by regulatory authorities," an Intuitive spokesperson told Becker's. "Continued use beyond the instrument’s determined useful life may reduce safety, precision and dexterity. Further, third parties may use incompatible or unvalidated parts or processes in servicing or repairing the systems, which could cause damage and put patient safety at risk."

The spokesperson also noted that Intuitive welcomes competition in the robotic-assisted surgical device field.

"[T]here are a fast-growing number of other companies, including Stryker, Asensus Surgical and others, that offer or are seeking to offer their own systems, servicing, instruments, and accessories across a variety of procedures. We welcome these other companies and believe they validate the overall value and benefits of robotic-assisted surgery," he said.

The spokesperson told Becker's that Intuitive does not comment explicitly on pending litigation.

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