HHS Spending Millions to Stockpile Ventilators in Case of 'Public Health Emergency'

By Susan Jones | September 18, 2014 | 9:11am EDT

Today's large, nonportable mechanical ventilators currently cost from $6,000 to $30,000 per unit, HHS says.

(CNSNews.com) - The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it is spending almost $14 million over three years to develop "low-cost, user-friendly ventilators" that can be stockpiled in case of a "pandemic or other public health emergency."

“In pandemics and other emergencies, doctors must have medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and critical equipment such as mechanical ventilators at the ready in order to save lives,” said Robin Robinson, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is part of HHS.

"An affordable portable ventilator will help us meet the needs of critically ill patients during a public health emergency, whether due to a naturally occurring pandemic or an act of bioterrorism.”

The new ventilator will be developed under a three-year, $13.8 million contract with Philips Respironics of Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

HHS says in a severe influenza pandemic or other public health emergencies, a large number of severely ill patients would require mechanical ventilation. "This number could overwhelm the capacity of the health care system to provide such care, both in the number of ventilators available and staff trained to operate them," the news release said.

HHS says the project will use advanced technology to reduce the size and cost of ventilators, making them easy to operate without special training, and making them easier to stockpile.

Under the agreement, Philips Healthcare will develop a next-generation ventilator that can be adapted for use by very young children and elderly patients.

"The next-generation ventilator also will be designed to be manufactured quickly to meet a surge in the number of patients who need ventilators if more ventilators are needed than could be stockpiled," HHS said.

The contract includes an option to purchase 10,000 completely kitted, initial production ventilators for $32.8 million.

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