Like nearly every industry across the globe, the medtech sector is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on 2020 sales. The impact was far from even, given the diversity of companies in the space — from those that make heart valves to artificial hips and knees to robotics to point of care testing.
When CMS in mid-March 2020 advised hospitals to all but halt non-emergency procedures, those firms especially reliant on elective surgeries like Boston Scientific and Stryker saw steep declines in demand. After some stabilization, the holidays, new virus variants and regional resurgence brought ups and downs throughout last year.
The story was different for testing companies that pivoted to either making or processing COVID-19 diagnostics. Once-struggling Quidel saw its fortunes buoyed by demand for its antigen tests, as did Abbott, Roche, Becton Dickinson and other bigger medtechs that jumped into the COVID-19 testing space. Quest Diagnostics and Labcorp also saw a deluge in demand.
With the new year, these trends moved in different directions.
Quidel was among the first to warn the rollout of vaccines and other factors would lead demand to plunge in February and March. Similarly, Abbott saw demand fall for its coronavirus diagnostics in the first quarter on 2021, after riding a wave of COVID-19 testing throughout the year.
For device makers waiting in the wings for elective procedures to return, the situation has improved. Johnson & Johnson, Edwards Lifesciences and Intuitive Surgical in April all reported a rebound in elective care, spurring hope that the brunt of the pandemic is in the rear view mirror.
Executives, though, know they can’t count on certainty when it comes to the coronavirus, given the regional surges and variants that have thrown a wrench into prior forecasts.
With the onslaught of the delta variant, some hospitals and other facilities in hard hit spots are once again becoming overwhelmed, and elective procedure-reliant medtechs have felt a pinch this summer. In turn, demand for testing is increasing by some accounts.
While the big device companies say this time will be different, the pandemic has taught many that unpredictability is one thing that can be counted on.
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