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Return to their roots

Return to their roots

When I spoke with Geoffrey Purtill in September, he hinted that some dramatic changes were coming Invacare’s way, but he couldn’t say at that time what they were.

The need for changes didn’t come as a surprise. Following a consent decree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Invacare has continued to struggle to find its footing and then the pandemic hit, with all of its baggage.

A company that once had a market cap of more than $1 billion now stands at $19.72 million.

But when Invacare announced in November that it would discontinue production of respiratory products by the end of this year, I’ll admit that did come as a surprise. Purtill, president and CEO, cited as reasons for the decision: excess supply in the market, lower demand and increased production costs.

“As we’ve demonstrated with the respiratory announcement, we’re not afraid to make tough decisions,” he told analysts during a conference call to discuss the company’s financial results for the third quarter.

I’ll be honest, when I think about Invacare, I think about HomeFill, the system that allows users to refill their oxygen supply. The company invented the technology and before portable oxygen concentrators came onto the scene it was the only way to not only reduce deliveries and costs for providers but also increase mobility and independence for patients.

A lot of the questions I have, in the wake of this news, relate to the impact on providers and their patients. Do the majority of providers carry Invacare products? And more specifically, how many carry HomeFill? How will providers phase out the company’s products? What manufacturer will they shift their business to?

We asked providers to address some of these questions in a recent HME NewsPoll.

But Invacare, of course, has its roots in mobility products. The company was formed when Mal Mixon organized a small group of investors, including J.B. Richey, to raise $7.8 million to purchase the wheelchair division of Technicare, which had been purchased by Johnson & Johnson.

And Invacare made mobility and seating more of a priority in the past few years under its previous leader, Matt Monaghan, and part of its decision to discontinue production of respiratory products had to do with doubling down on this category, as well as lifestyle products.

In this way, Invacare’s decision is both an end of an era and a return to its roots.


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