Ventilators still in demand amid global fight against COVID-19
Published: Aug 03, 2020 07:39 PM

Workers produce non-invasive ventilators at a medical technology company in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Jan. 31, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

After Chinese medical equipment manufacturers rushed to churn out medical supplies for the global battle against COVID-19, concerns about overcapacity of the products have arisen with some media reports alleging that Chinese-made ventilators are suffering from returns. 

But major ventilator makers told the Global Times they had not seen such a trend, although the current overseas demand for ventilators is not as high compared with previous months. 

Jiang Dong, marketing manager of BMC Medical Co (BMC), a Beijing-based ventilator supplier, told the Global Times Monday that the decreasing demand for ventilators comes from the improving containment of the COVID-19 and the rising ventilator supply, "but ventilator production capacity is still far from satisfying global market demand."

Unlike face masks, ventilators are made based on pre-orders, and therefore will not be mass-produced, Jiang said. 

BMC has a large production capacity, with its daily output of non-invasive ventilators reaching 1,000, and high-flow humidifiers hitting 100.

Jiang said the company is still in normal production and the output of high-flow humidifiers has not been reduced. Because there are few global manufacturers, production capacity for humidifiers remains lower than market demand. 

As to some Chinese ventilator suppliers have received returned products from overseas buyers, Jiang said the reason lies in price as the buyers may have found cheaper ventilators.

For instance, the price of the "VG70," a popular mobile ICU ventilator made by Beijing AEONMED Co, dived from 350,000 yuan ($50,122) to lower than 150,000 yuan, according to business media portal Caixin. The price of another type of ventilator manufactured by Beijing Aerospace Changfeng Co called the "ACM-812A" dropped from 250,000 yuan to less than 100,000 yuan, the report said. 

An employee at Mindray, another leading domestic medical equipment maker, said they had not seen ventilators being returned from abroad. 

The coronavirus caused ventilator makers to soar. According to a study released by Global Trade Alert in March, 25 nations have reported ventilator exports worth $10 million or more. The biggest producers - the US, Germany and China - had more than $500 million in sales. 

Among global ventilator makers, Swiss Hamilton, Germany's Draeger and Swedish Getinge are the market leaders. Draeger accounted for 35.8 percent of the Chinese market share in 2017, according to a report by CITIC Securities. 

Draeger expects to ship at least 10,000 ventilators to other countries this year, the company's spokesperson Peter Mueller said in March, which means the production capacity will have to rise to more than 20,000 units. 

"We have seen a significant increase in global demand, especially for ventilators, and increased demand for ventilation accessories and light respiratory protection," Melanie Kamann, Draeger's corporate spokeswoman, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Kamann noted the increase in demand began at the beginning of the year in China and Asia, and is now continuing in many other countries, in parallel with rising infection rates. 

"While usually hospitals are our customers, at present it is increasingly health authorities or government agencies that ask for our products," she noted, adding at present, the company mainly supply countries that are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, Bai Yu, president of the Medical Appliances Branch of the China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association warned the prospective global supply of ventilators may exceed that of demand as some countries had stockpiled the machines at the very beginning of the outbreak.