How medical diagnostics giant Abbott flooded the market with faulty machinery

By Chloé Aeberhardt and Annika Joeres

Posted today at 19:35

It had been a long time since Abbott had organized such a party. During the summer of 2016, the American giant of medical diagnostics invited its teams to celebrate the launch of a product ” revolutionary ” in a 4-star hotel located not far from its Chicago headquarters. Evening wear, DJs, flooding champagne, catering service provided by prominent chefs and highly paid speakers: nothing was too good or too expensive (the event cost more than $ 3 million, or 2.47 million euros) to celebrate the new line of Alinity machines. Installed on the technical platforms of city laboratories and in hospitals, these fully automated devices analyze biological samples and send the results by computer to the doctors responsible for interpreting them. These are the machines that look like big office photocopiers, whose average price is around 150,000 euros, which determine an individual’s cholesterol level, the presence of a virus or bacteria.

That evening, before the spirits got too heated, Abbott Vice President Jaime Contreras took the microphone to say all the good things he thought about Alinity PLCs. Not only do they have a cool look, with their tart apple-green accents, but they’re more compact and faster than their predecessors, the Architects. Above all, thanks to them, “Abbott will become the Apple of diagnostics”, the leader prophesied, while on the screen behind him was projected a photo of a queue in front of an Apple Store. “Laboratories will be scrambling to buy our Alinity. We are going to take huge market shares. ” And to conclude, his voice trembling with emotion: « We will “alinityze” the world ! » (“We are going to ‘alinitys’ the world!”).

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Abbott, along with Swiss Roche, German Siemens Healthineers and American Danaher, is one of the handful of companies that dominate the global market for in vitro diagnostics (IVD), estimated in 2019 at $ 58.2 billion by the marketing analysis firm Evaluate Ltd. The IVD industry is made up of companies that manufacture the equipment, reagents and instruments that allow medical analyzes to be performed from biological samples. Better known to the general public since the Covid-19 crisis, which made screening a global obsession, these products are decisive in the care of patients: according to the Syndicate of the in vitro diagnostics industry (Sidiv) , more than 70% of medical decisions are based on IVD testing.

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