Hospitals are reusing medical devices labeled as “one-time use” to save money. [WSJ]


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  1. Murph1908 says:

    The manufacturers are fighting this, seeking legislation to stop it.

    Imagine that. The company that makes money on the sales of the items doesn’t want the item used more than once.

    This is the exact type of thing we need to be doing to lower health care costs. If the sterilization works, and studies show there is no adverse effect, then I’m all for this.

  2. Angryrider says:


  3. Aphex242 says:

    I’m with ya Murph. If there’s no downside, what’s the upside to more waste and more cost?

  4. DeepFriar says:

    There are two reasons they would label them single use only
    1) make more money
    2) avoid litigation from someone getting infected

    That being said, if the GAO is cool with it…

  5. RandoX says:

    Sterilization issues aside, are the products designed for multiple uses? Are the blades sharp enough for use the second time? Are flexible pieces fatigued, risking breakage inside the body?

    There are more than sterilization and infectious issues to consider.

  6. Munkeyhatecleen says:

    @Randox: Are they designed for multiple uses? Probably, and if not, they certainly could be.

  7. Rando says:

    It’s kind of crazy just how greedy hospitals are. $100,000 for surgery here and there…yet they do stupid cut backs like this. Greedy mother fuckers.

  8. jpx72x says:

    This smells like when Johnson and Johnson and Bauch and Laumb were busted for selling the exact same contacts under three different brands for three different prices.

    See [] for more info.

  9. qitaana says:

    Ask the 40,000 people in Las Vegas who are getting letters warning them that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis C because an endoscopy center was believed to be reusing syringes and single-use vials of medication. Better yet, as the unfortunate portion of those who actually did contract some illness as a result.

  10. alawrites says:

    When I broke my arm, I had to buy a $2000 device that sent electrical signals to my bone to encourage growth. (My insurance paid for most of it). While the item was a machine and the ONLY part touching my body was the wires, the machine was programed to turn off after 6 months… so no one else could ever use it.

    I asked them why and they said “its the law, only one time use.”

    Not all items really need to be used only once. Companies make a killing and people who have little or no insurance get screwed.

  11. brs928 says:

    @RandoX: You hit all the main points on the head.
    1. Most of the products can’t be designed for multiple uses. To do so would most likely require changing materials or dimensions to something other than what is optimal for the performance of the instrument.
    2. Knife and saw blades may be sharp enough to use over, but the fact is that they are NOT as sharp as a new one, so they won’t work AS WELL. Given that all patients must receive the same standard of care, reusing these instruments would be a violation of that.
    3. How are these reprocessing facilities testing the amount of fatigue that the instruments have gone through? There is no way to determine how close that part is to breaking.

    FYI, I am an engineer for a medical device company, but we don’t make any of the products listed in the article.

  12. taka2k7 says:

    @Rando: Maybe, but they need to cover the ever increasing numbers of uninsured visiting their ERs.

    This is just another example of our disposable society. Stuff is designed for demise, not repair/reuse. @RandoX: @Munkeyhatecleen: Both good points. Some stuff should be fairly easily reused, other stuff, not so much (no thank you, but I’ll take the brand new syringe). Still, you’d want to know how many times something had been reused/sharpened. At some point, stuff needs to be replaced.

    Still, I’d want some pretty iron-clad assurances that the sterilization process is fool proof. Me thinks plenty of heat/steam and UV radiation would be a good start, but not necessarily sufficient.

  13. taka2k7 says:

    @brs928: Good points. This would need to be looked at. You don’t want stuff reused until it breaks. Stuff should be replaced well before failures. Kinda of like aircraft… don’t wait until the wings fall off to replace the aircraft.

  14. shoegazer says:

    @taka2k7: No “sterilization process” is good enough. If it’s single use, then use it just once, dammit. I don’t want to be the sorry patient whose needle breaks when they jab it into me because it’s been “heat treated” or whatever the hell else they do.

  15. jelleric says:

    High quality stethoscopes are expensive. However, it’s risky for nurses and doctors to carrry the same one all day, bringing it in and out of patient rooms. At one hospital I rotated through, all patients get their own stethoscope that hangs in the room. They are sent for reprocessing after the patient is discharged. THe choice is to either have a low quality, cheap disposable stethoscope where the listener may not be able to hear the nuances of the breath or heart sounds, or a higher quality one that can be reprocessed. Which would you prefer?

  16. GenXCub says:

    With the big Hep C outbreak here in Las Vegas, due to clinics reusing things like syringes, I think a lot of local people and politicians are happy to let companies sell things as “one use only” even if there’s a safe way to reuse it.

  17. Skeptic says:

    Hospitals not only reuse “one time use only” products, they don’t pass along the savings, instead they charge for the item as if it was new each time (with the usual order of magnitude markup, of course.)