The Effect of COVID-19 on the Respiratory Treatment Device Industry
The impact of COVID-19, which was designated a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020, has been tremendous — particularly on the respiratory treatment device industry. The past year was marked by a stressed industry that was caught unprepared for the demands that were put upon it. In addition, product demands exposed unprecedented global supply chain and manufacturing issues in the United States — and around the world.
The continued increase of positive COVID-19 tests worldwide has heightened concerns that the supply of available ventilators, as well as other respiratory treatment and therapy devices, may not be sufficient to handle the needs of critically ill patients. What are the industry outlook and trends for the respiratory treatment device industry? How has COVID-19 impacted respiratory medical device companies and how are respiratory device companies responding to a pandemic that has now claimed the lives of over two million people globally?
The Prevalence (and Increase) of Chronic Respiratory Diseases Worldwide
According to The Lancet, chronic respiratory diseases — such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary sarcoidosis and interstitial lung disease — were the third leading cause of death in 2017, behind cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The 2018 Global Asthma report noted that these chronic respiratory diseases affect more than one billion people globally. In addition, chronic respiratory diseases are some of the top reasons that individuals seek emergency care. Of all of the chronic respiratory diseases, asthma is one of the largest contributors and affects individuals of all ages: in 2018, almost 8% of the country’s population suffered from this chronic condition.
Even before the development of COVID-19, respiratory medical device companies were actively looking at ways to improve their products, making them increasingly available to facilities and patients who needed the most care. COPD breathing aids and other devices underwent technological advances in recent years. Further, respiratory medical device companies were working on ways to make these devices more portable, easier to use and available in both home and alternative care settings.
Respiratory Devices, Therapeutic Devices and Diagnostics
North America, which includes Canada, Mexico and the United States, accounts for the largest share in the respiratory device market industry worldwide. Respiratory treatment devices not only include long-term artificial respiration designed for acute care settings, they also include:
- Respiratory diagnostic devices (spirometers, peak flow meters and pulse oximeters)
- Disposables (masks and breathing circuits)
- Therapeutic devices (CPAP devices, nebulizers, oxygen concentrators and ventilators)
In addition, respiratory treatment devices encompass forced oxygen apparatuses, which are used for resuscitation in emergency situations.
Ventilators for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
The need to treat the rise in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the leading cause of death for COVID-19 patients, with ventilators during COVID-19 resulted in a shortage of these respiratory devices. ARDS, a condition which causes fluid to build up in the alveoli of the lungs, is marked by labored and unusually rapid breathing, severe shortness of breath, confusion and extreme tiredness.
For patients with severe acute respiratory failure who are not able to breath on their own, mechanical ventilation is essential. Ventilators, which can be computerized microprocessor-controlled machines or hand-operated bag valve masks, provide mechanical ventilation to patients who are unable to physically breathe. Ventilators move breathable air into and out of the lungs. They traditionally have been used in intensive care medicine, emergency medicine and anesthesiology. The demand for these types of respiratory treatment devices quickly overwhelmed the day-to-day operational capabilities for these hospitals.
New Strategies from Respiratory Medical Device Companies
As the pandemic’s cases spiked in early 2020, new strategies were needed to ensure that the supply of ventilators was sufficient to meet the needs of a strained healthcare system. The global emergency required that respiratory medical device companies (GE Healthcare, DeVilbiss Healthcare LLC, and Dragerwerk AG to name a few) strengthen their market positions through partnerships, new product launches and other strategic initiatives. Along with these strategies, non-profit initiatives and government programs (such as the Global Initiative for Asthma [GINA]) have influenced respiratory device growth and improvements.
Technological Solutions and Development
3D printing is increasingly being used as a solution for growing medical device needs; it has been an effective way to develop and prototype products that have helped with ventilator shortage concerns during the COVID crisis. In April of 2020, Johns Hopkins University engineers developed a 3D-printed ventilator splitter in the response to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. 3D printing has been a solution for other pandemic medical product demands as well, such as COVID-19 test swabs. Developing and manufacturing products with 3D printing is a cheap and fast way to develop products in bulk that can be made to scale. Qosina offers 3D CAD models for components, available in a wide variety of formats.
COPD Breathing Aids and Respiratory Treatment Device Outlook for 2021
As the COVID crisis continues and the number of chronic respiratory illnesses remains high, the need for COPD breathing aids and respiratory treatment devices will remain a concern — both in the United States and throughout the world. The pandemic has boosted the market growth for ventilators and therapeutic assistance devices. This, along with the increasing chronic respiratory diseases globally, will ensure that the respiratory treatment devices will remain in demand, and respiratory medical device companies will need to continue their efforts to explore creative ways to meet the demands in both critical hospital settings and at-home therapeutic settings.
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- Prevalence and attributable health burden of chronic respiratory diseases, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 – https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30105-3/fulltext#seccestitle10
- Most Recent National Asthma Data – https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/most_recent_national_asthma_data.htm
- ARDS – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ards/symptoms-causes/syc-20355576
- Johns Hopkins Engineers Developing 3D-printed Ventilator Splitter – https://releases.jhu.edu/2020/04/02/johns-hopkins-engineers-developing-3d-printed-ventilator-splitter/