Impact of COVID-19 on several industries in context with the surgical equipment industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected surgical equipment production and import & export of raw materials and finished goods in various COVID-19-affected countries. The South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are facing lockdowns and massive disruptions to supply chains, distributors, and manufacturers of surgical equipment.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was recognized in late December in Hubei province of Wuhan city in China. This highly contagious disease, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is transmitted from humans to humans. After the first case in Wuhan, the disease rapidly spread to other parts of the globe. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) made an assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. Thus, social-distancing became an important measure to stop the spread of this disease. Various countries across the world adopted nationwide lockdowns. This led to a completely new scenario for the world, where every business in each industry faced new challenges and witnessed new opportunities. Similarly, the medical personal protective industry, a vital part of the healthcare sector, also witnessed new growth opportunities.

At present, the pandemic has had a major global impact on the surgical equipment industry. As COVID-19 emerged, these procedures were temporarily stopped to mitigate the risk of virus transmission; to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital bed capacity, and key equipment (e.g., ventilators); and to allow shifts in health care staffing patterns. The American College of Surgeons disseminated a tiered acuity scale1 to guide patient triage for surgery relative to severity of illness, time sensitivity, and community disease prevalence, with hospitals and health systems delicately balancing case prioritization; safety of patients, surgeons, and other health care professionals; and resource availability. According to a study performed by The CovidSurg Collaborative (a 120-country research initiative formed to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on surgeries), more than 28 million planned surgeries across the globe could be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to patients facing a lengthy wait for their health issues to be resolved. A survey conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital among 534 patients with breast cancer indicated that 31.7% reported they experienced delays in screening or treatment from May to July 2020. Similarly, at Wake Forest Baptist Health (WFBH), there was a near-complete pause in mammograms in April 2020. From March to June 2020 of the pandemic, this health system experienced significant declines in surgical volumes compared with the same period during the previous year, with a 27% reduction in orthopedic surgery cases (from 795 procedures in 2019 to 578 procedures in 2020 during March to June) and a 34% reduction in breast surgery cases (from 270 procedures in 2019 to 178 procedures in 2020 during March to June), followed by a gradual recovery, to 434 orthopedic surgery cases and 116 breast surgery cases in July and August 2020. Thus, this is anticipated to decrease the demand for surgical equipment and impede the market growth in the future.

Impact of COVID-19 on several industries in context with the surgical equipment industry

Surgical equipment are the tools with defined purposes to view internal body organs or modify biological tissues. These tools mainly include surgical sutures & staplers, forceps & spatulas, retractors, dilators, graspers, auxiliary instruments, cutter instruments, ligating clips, suction tubes, rasps, dissectors, needle holders, mesh, glue, and electrosurgical devices. They are used across various surgical procedures including neurosurgery, urology, laparoscopic, plastic surgery, cardiovascular, and others.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected surgical equipment production and import & export of raw materials and finished goods in various COVID-19-affected countries. The South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are facing lockdowns and massive disruptions to supply chains, distributors, and manufacturers of surgical equipment. According to the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry, India imports a variety of surgical equipment such as syringes, bandages, orthopedic implants, gloves, tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging devices from China. However, COVID-19 pandemic and political issues between India and China have created barriers between sellers and buyers. As China is one of the major manufacturers and suppliers, trade and transport restrictions, quarantine measures, cross-border movement controls, and disruptions in production have reduced the supply of surgical equipment products across the world. This has adversely affected the product supply chain activities across the globe in 2020.

During the initial wave of the global pandemic in 2020 many healthcare systems have canceled or delayed the elective surgical procedures, thereby negatively impacting a wide range of surgical equipment sales and decreasing their market values in 2020. Surgical equipment market were expected to recover in 2021 due to the steady rise in the volume of surgical procedures in 2021, however, in the current scenario of second wave of COVID-19, reduction in number of hospitalizations for surgical procedures specially in the U.S., Britain, India, South Africa, and Brazil has been observed. For instance, in January 2021, around 83.5% of all orthopedic procedures in the U.S. were postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, as they were considered to be elective and non-essential. Furthermore, the top 10 procedures such as knee, hip, shoulder replacements, and spinal fusion procedures accounted for 62.5% of the total volume of surgical procedures in the U.S., which are also being delayed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and spare the use of beds, ventilators, and equipment for COVID-19 patients. Moreover, the surgical trainees across the world have also experienced the adverse effects such as lost training opportunities and deficiencies in experience, as the surgical trainings are delivered online and not in the traditional models of learning presently.

Expectations from the surgical equipment industry

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a constantly-evolving condition that is affecting all communities across the globe. In addition, a combination of a large asymptomatic population and the presence of infectious variants of the virus is anticipated to impact the surgical procedures globally and is expected to hamper the operations of surgical equipment industry during 2021.

Major key players operating in the global surgical equipment market include Medtronic Plc., Peters Surgical SASU, Johnsons & Johnsons, CONMED Corporation, Novartis International AG, Smith & Nephew PLC, Boston Scientific Corporation, B. Braun Melsungen AG, Cousin-Biotech, Enthral Medical GMBH, Fuhrmann GMBH, Integral Lifesciences Holdings Corporation, and KLS martin Group.

The expectation from the surgical equipment industry is to support governments to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The surgical equipment industry is expected to monitor all developments and adhere to recommendations from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), and local & state health agencies. The manufacturers are expected to implement all recommended safety precautions and take additional steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19 within their production area. The manufacturer should follow recommended guidelines for risk reduction such as social distancing, frequent disinfection to high touch items, availability of hand sanitizers in all common areas, and provision of training and updates to all employees on safety precautions. Moreover, the quality of the product should not be affected.

Post COVID-19 Scenario

As nations are emerging out of strict lockdowns, economy is expected to take time to stabilize gradually. Players operating in the nuclear medicine equipment market are anticipated to face new challenges related to different aspects. For instance, product shortage is anticipated to lead to a negative impact on supply to various countries. However, the scenario is expected to change upon increasing the production of surgical tools in the coming years. Similarly, decision making management of surgical equipment companies is anticipated to face challenges such as improvement of liquidity, management of working capital, better management of expenditures, and redefined contracts with suppliers. Moreover, the COVID-19 vaccine immunization program at the global level is expected to fuel the growth of the market post the COVID-19 pandemic, as the immunization program will help the industry to normalize post pandemic era, which is expected to further boost the production of surgical equipment in the market. Therefore, the surgical instrument industry which is at a crucial juncture during this pandemic, exhibits the potential for rapid growth with government support in the coming years.

Recent news in the syringe industry during the pandemic

The surgical equipment market key players around the globe are entering into product launch, collaboration, and investment as their key strategies to establish their foothold in the market.

In December 2020, Integra acquired ACell Inc., a provider of medical devices for wound management and surgical soft tissue repair. ACell’s porcine urinary bladder matrix platform technology MatriStem UBM is designed to improve the body's ability to restore natural tissue and minimize scarring. This strategy is projected to help Integra to focus on surgical instrumentation, neurosurgery, & regenerative medicine to strengthen its position in the market.

In September 2020, Ethicon, a subsidiary of J&J launched Echelon Endopath Staple Line Reinforcement (SLR) for bariatric, thoracic, and general surgical procedures. This strengthened the staple lines product portfolio of the company.

In September 2020, Smith & Nephew launched Healicoil Knotless Suture Anchor and Novostitch Pro meniscal repair system to strengthen their position in the market.

In June 2020, Aesculap, a subsidiary of B. Braun launched SQ.line surgical instrument portfolio to offer wide range of basic instrumentation for spine and orthopedic procedures.

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