FDA Approves Emergency Ventilator Production Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


The FDA has granted approval to medical equipment manufacturer Medtronic to make a lower-cost ventilator in response to the increased demand due to the coronavirus outbreak. The ventilator, known as the Puritan Bennett 560, currently sells for an average price of under $10,000 in 35 different counties. Medtronic plans to launch the Puritan Bennett 560 in May. 

The demand for ventilators in the United States has dramatically increased due to the highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 virus. For this reason, the government is encouraging ventilator manufacturers to make as many ventilators as possible. The government is also mandating carmakers to use their facilities to make the ventilator.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department approved two contracts totaling more than $1 billion to General Motors Company and Phillips. They plan to announce the approval of five more contracts soon.

Medtronic stated that it expects to ramp up their production to more than 1,000 ventilators per week by the end of June. This would be a fivefold increase in production for a total of 25,000 ventilators within the next six months.

The company plans on creating a new feature that allows healthcare workers to adjust the ventilator remotely. This would allow the operator to reduce their exposure to the patient. It would only be available on the Puritan Bennett 980 ventilator. 

Medtronic stated that they will be publicly sharing the design plan for the ventilator to evaluate ideas about how to manufacture the ventilator quickly. They stated that they are making progress with the following three manufacturers:

  • Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer
  • Baylis Medical Company Incorporated in Mississauga, Ontario
  • Vingroup Joint Stock Company in Hanoi, Vietnam

Foxconn Technology Group is best known for making Apple iPhone factories in China. They released a statement on April 8th indicating that they had medical and technical employees working closely with Medtronic on the ventilators. Both companies seek to speed up the production time so that the ventilators can be available as soon as possible. According to Medtronic CEO Omar Ishark, Foxconn’s Wisconsin plant will be used to make the ventilators. This comes at a crucial time as many experts predict that death rates will rise within the next two weeks due to the COVID-19 virus.