It’s been a rough few years for Philips, producer of millions of recalled sleep devices such as CPAP machines for sleep apnea (OSA), as well as the patients who depend on them.
In June 2021, the company recalled CPAP and BiPAP machines that could emit particles and cancer-causing chemicals into patients’ airways as they slept, sending the company into subsequent years of mayhem and unrest in the aftermath. Since then, they’ve navigated lawsuits, patient complaints, a CEO stepping down, and an arduous replacement program. They’ve also had additional recalls of related products, including masks with magnets in September 2022.
Predictably, as the company published its fourth quarter results and yearly earnings for 2022 on January 30, the outlook is bleak for this struggling giant. In their press release describing their findings and goals, they commit to “strengthening patient safety and quality” as their highest priority.
They further broke down their goals in this area, including finalizing the long-awaited end to the Respironics recall, and navigating the U.S. Department of Justice and litigation related to the recall. Part of the controversy comes from Philips blaming incorrect cleaning methods for the hazardous foam breakdown, a point they might be using as a defense tactic in lawsuits.
In the new statement, Philips said, “Across the company, Philips will ensure patient safety and quality is at the core of its innovation approach to avoid future issues. Moreover, the company will step up accountability for patient safety and quality, including giving all employees dedicated patient safety and quality objectives, deploying an expanded compliance and awareness program, and simplifying processes.”
Simultaneously, the CEO announced a plan to cut 6,000 jobs by 2025 – an addition to 4,000 jobs Phillips eliminated in October 2022. To improve patient safety while cutting roles, the company says they intend to focus on fewer, “better resourced” impactful projects, with patient safety and need first.
It’s hard to say what this immediately means for patients affected by the recall, but for many whose well-being and health, and sometimes finances, have hung in the balance while the company remedied the situation, it’s been much more than a business issue. Rather, it’s been a matter of access to highly necessary medical equipment.
Some have turned to alternative OSA treatments while awaiting replacement devices, while others have been saddled with hefty payments to purchase intermittent machines while they await replacements. All eyes are on Philips as they navigate their promised return to the market, and their commitment to patient safety amidst cuts in that same department.