Why There Aren't Enough Ventilators (No, It's Not Trump's Fault)

A tale of good ol' American capitalism at work.

Thirteen years ago, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system’s crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of inexpensive portable ventilators. Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway. And then things suddenly veered off course.

In May 2012, Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, bought Newport Medical Instruments, the company that was awarded the contract and successfully delivered three working prototype units to the government. After the takeover, developing inexpensive portable ventilators no longer seemed like a top priority. Covidien demanded additional funding and a higher sales price for the ventilators.

Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business.

Source: The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.

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PriceRip's picture

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16 users have voted.

"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

The responsible executives and officials should receive a Chinese style penalty for this betrayal. 13 years to make a few thousand simple, cheap ventilators - and we're supposed to just move on and let it be.

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CB's picture

@leveymg
that a Chinese official got a bullet in the head for failures of this magnitude. Maybe we were too quick to condemn them for those draconian penalties at the time.
(Not sure if this is snark. I'll let you know in a few months when we find out the true cost.)

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13 users have voted.

@CB @CB in the two systems. In the US and most of the west, wealth and power innoculate decisionmakers from accountabilty for harm to the public. The result is rampant decline in standards, corruption, and resistance to reform. When this becomes the norm, system failure follows. We have undeniably and perhaps irreversibly reached the point of collapse of empire, today.

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16 users have voted.

@leveymg @leveymg
adulterated baby food with deadly non-food to increase their profits, apparently indifferent to the inevitable consequences for either their customers or themselves.

(Note: There's been at least one case of somebody in the US deliberately adulterating baby food with non-deadly not-quite-the-food-they-said-it-was in order to increase profits.)

I find suggestions of Chinese exceptionalism to be exactly as silly -- even ugly -- as those of American exceptionalism. People who spew stupid things about how the US has some sort of inherent cultural advantage that will give us market-competitive superiority over the Chinese or the Indians are out of their minds. And people who think there's anything particularly noble or deep or profound about Chinese culture that gives them some sort of edge over us are similarly mad. Both societies are agglomerations of homo sapiens, and they are both subject to the same basic institutional illnesses arising out of the pathologies of human behavior -- pathologies that can only be called such in the context of modern ethics.

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9 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

@UntimelyRippd the US is FUBAR, and why China will likely recover and survive long after we are added as a long footnote to the list of collapsed civilizations.

BTW: If you think that US executives never intentionally poisoned any of their customers or acted to destroy their own industry, just read the Tobacco Settlement.

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2 users have voted.

@leveymg
Nothing I have ever learned about China, including directly in first-person accounts from colleagues who were raised there, suggests to me that they have better long-term prospects than anyone else.

Here's an interesting thing: Many Chinese -- maybe even most -- believe that the "Tianenmen Square Massacre" was basically a Western hoax. I know people who know people who were there at the square, and they tell the story of how by the time the tanks rolled in, the crowds had already dispersed -- that few people, if any in fact, were actually slain at Tianenmen Square.

Which turns out to be true, mostly. Western media, in its usual pattern of presenting the facts in a way as to create a nice, dramatic, Hollywood narrative just kept saying "Tianenmen, Tianenmen," because, y'know, that was the Meme o' the Day -- but actually, when the hammer came down most of the killings took place near, but not on, the square. American reporters were on the scene of those killings, and witnessed firsthand the carnage, and reported it -- but the headlines and the talking heads and the chyrons all read, "Tianenmen Square". So, yeah, the Chinese government slaughtered plenty of protesters that day -- we'll never know how many -- but not on Tianenmen Square itself. And the happy bourgeois Chinese elites believe it never happened, because they know people who know people who know that the tanks did not shoot up the square.

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1 user has voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Lily O Lady's picture

@leveymg @leveymg

environmental regulations in order to ramp production up due to the stoppage due to Covid19. The air quality in China is frightful under normal circumstances. The world over “leaders” are poisoning the populace.

I think the difference between China and the US is that China sees their population as an asset, while in the US, TPTB see us as a liability.

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2 users have voted.

"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Grr, grr, grr, grr, grr.

Grr.

yes, this is what happens when your country is run according to an ideology that insists it is both impractical (less efficient and less effective) and fundamentally immoral to have any useful activity undertaken without a profit motive that will generate private wealth.

Do any of you folks use the Free Fillable Forms system to file your taxes? Do you ever wonder why it is so fucking broken? Why, for example, it can't pull in data from your previous year's tax forms? Well, there's one simple reason: If it could, people wouldn't pay for the not-so-free software like Intuit.

It is preposterous that 100% of your tax filing can't be done directly on government servers using government applications, because that would be "inefficient" -- because, you know, it is SO much more efficient to have multiple software companies develop their own custom applications. And of course, if there's going to a semi-crippled "free" system, it won't be developed by US government employees, it will be developed by contractors, to ensure that the Great God Profit is satisfied and doesn't rain down plagues upon us. I'd be interested to know the GPS coordinates of the actual coders.

The work on those portable ventilators should have been done as work-for-hire, with 100% of any associated novel IP belonging to the government. Then they could have told Newport to go eff themselves, and paid anybody else to manufacture the things.

I swear, Intellectual Property will be the death of us all. I'm still sitting on a rant about the different SARS-Cov-2 testing protocols, about which everyone is awfully exercised. The bottom line of it is this: I could have designed a pretty good test in one day, once the sequence was published. One capable lab tech with access to the right equipment could have produced a working version in another day. The Germans took the time to nail it down a little tighter, both in the design and in the bench testing. Whatever. The problem is, as soon as someone designs and publishes a test, they own the damned thing, and nobody else can use the same parts of the sequence to create their own tests. Because IP. I doubt the Germans spent more than $10k to $20k in their rush development. The market payback for that amount of work -- the IP royalties -- might amount to billions of dollars. It's ludicrous. You're not supposed to be able to patent "obvious" solutions -- well a molecular diagnostic is usually pretty damned obvious, because you just throw the algorithms at the sequences, and out come the reagents.

And yes, I know what I'm talking about, because once upon a time I earned my living designing molecular diagnostics (using tech similar to, but distinct from, the realtime Reverse-Transcriptase qPCR techniques most the SARS-Cov-2 tests use) for human pathogens. I also worked on a clinical trial whose purpose was to validate one such diagnostic that someone else had designed -- I spent hours poring over sequencing results, documenting and explaining every observation.

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18 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

@UntimelyRippd
A. The second-most difficult part of my job was finding target sequences that were unique to the organism of interest, and that met the necessary chemical kinetics for the chemistry to work. In other words: Specificity.

B. The most difficult part of my job was carrying out A without stepping on someone else's IP -- without targeting a sequence that someone else already had a patent for targeting.

In order to protect us against lawsuits, the staff attorneys would give me a list of sequences I couldn't use. They wouldn't say anything else about where those sequences came from, because the idea was to maintain deniability -- for me to be able to state in a deposition that I designed my reagents without ever seeing some particular company's research or patents or products.

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8 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Lookout's picture

from my column today...

Here's a clip from over a year ago about how to make an inexpensive ventilator controlled by your smart phone...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgAR4yWDsg0 (4 min)
Kinda makes you realize how dysfunctional we've become.

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13 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

CB's picture

@Lookout
like coronavirus there are complications involved that would preclude the capabilities of this unit for more severe and critical cases, especially home use.

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Lookout's picture

@CB

Dr John says the formula one engineering team has designed a low cost easy to assemble version.

Take care!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

CB's picture

Want to see how the propaganda can be catapulted? This fuckwit has been pumping out this bullshit for weeks.

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