US company selling ventilators developed with tax dollars overseas, ProPublica finds

A medical devicemaker was given $13.8 million in tax dollars from HHS last September to design and make cheap, portable ventilators to be stockpiled for emergencies. But none of the ventilators are in the U.S. stockpile, and the company has instead been selling more expensive versions overseas, an investigation from ProPublica found.

The company, Respironics, is a Murrysville, Pa.-based subsidiary of Royal Philips, a Dutch appliance and technology company.

HHS first contracted Respironics to make the ventilators to be stockpiled for emergency use in 2015. The ventilators, called the Trilogy Evo Universal, were FDA approved last summer.

In September, Respironics and HHS signed a contract for Respironics to make 10,000 ventilators for the stockpile at $3,280 each. But none of the ventilators made it to the U.S. stockpile, and Respironics has been selling two more expensive versions overseas, ProPublica found. 

The contract gave Respironics almost a year to produce a single Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator and another two years to complete the order of 10,000. HHS officials haven't explained why they didn't force the company to accelerate production earlier this year when the coronavirus began overwhelming hospitals around the world, according to ProPublica

"Philips is fully committed to fulfill the contract with the HHS for the delivery of 10,000 Trilogy Universal units. Philips is working closely with BARDA to accelerate delivery to the [strategic national stockpile]," a spokesperson told Becker's Hospital Review. 

A Royal Philips spokesperson told ProPublica the company was within its rights to prioritize production of the commercial versions of the ventilator. The spokesperson added that the reason Respironics hasn't produced the stockpile ventilator is because that version hasn't been mass-produced and has to go through lengthy trial runs, so it's faster and more efficient to keep producing the more expensive version.

Respironics is now reportedly negotiating a deal with a White House team led by Jared Kushner to build 43,000 more complex and expensive ventilators for hospitals. 

Becker's Hospital Review also reached out to HHS for comment and will update this story accordingly. 

Read the full investigation here


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