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Intuitive Surgical Declines as Revenue Misses Estimate

Oct 18, 2013

Earnings for Intuitive Surgical Inc., maker of the da Vinci surgical robot system, fell the most in three months after the company’s third-quarter profit declined on lower sales of the da Vinci and related equipment.

Revenue decreased 7.2 percent to $499 million, as Intuitive sold 101 da Vinci systems compared with 155 for the same period a year ago, Bloomberg News reports. Analysts who follow Intuitive had estimated earnings of $525.9 million this quarter.

The company has faced tough scrutiny over the marketing, cost effectiveness and safety of the da Vinci in light of increasing reports of patient injuries, complications, and deaths involving da Vinci procedures. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to survey surgeons about their experiences with the robot system, including questions about their dealings with Intuitive. In July, the agency sent Intuitive a warning letter after an inspection revealed that in some cases the company hadn’t adequately reported product corrections and patient adverse events.

More than 350,000 robot-assisted surgeries were performed in U.S. hospitals last year, though robotic surgeries haven’t been evaluated through randomized trials to determine their benefits as compared with standard procedures, according to Bloomberg News. Robots most commonly are used in hysterectomies, gall bladder removals, prostate cancer treatment, and other soft-tissue operations, often replacing accepted minimally invasive techniques without evidence of better outcomes. Intuitive’s $1.5 million robot system can also add to the cost of the surgery. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a robotic hysterectomy costs about $2,000 more than a hysterectomy performed without the robot.

Adverse event reports for da Vinci include burns and/or tears of the intestines, punctured blood vessels or ureters, bowel injuries, excessive bleeding, and death. In addition, some lawsuits brought against Intuitive allege that surgeons receive insufficient training before using the robots unassisted.

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