The pandemic hasn't stopped orthopaedic and spine specialists from moving forward with robotic surgery products. In the second half of this week, Stryker, NuVasive and Globus Medical each reported Wall Street-beating earnings and revenue numbers and simultaneously shared updates on their pre-commercial and on-the market systems.
For the second quarter in a row, Stryker bucked concerns that COVID-19's financial strain on hospitals and health systems would preclude investments in robots.
Sales of its Mako robot, which can assist in knee and hip replacement procedures, grew 30% in the U.S. during the quarter. Stryker also passed the 1,000 worldwide installations mark for the product and saw its highest number of quarterly placements in ambulatory surgery centers to date. And in markets outside of the U.S., such as Europe and Japan, a second quarter pause in Mako momentum lifted, Stryker reported.
CEO Kevin Lobo expects Mako placements to further accelerate in the fourth quarter and the bold outlook is "really irrespective of competition," the chief exec said. Stryker's main robotics competitor for hip and knee replacements, Zimmer Biomet, will likely discuss progress with its Rosa robotic platform during its third-quarter earnings call next Friday, Nov. 6.
Lobo also addressed, but shared few details on, future applications for spine and shoulder procedures. When asked about spine, where Stryker also has technology from its acquisition last year of Mobius, Lobo said the company is actively working on an offering but is not yet ready to discuss it publicly. Likewise, Lobo declined to share a timeline or details on implants that will be used with the shoulder indication it's making progress on.
NuVasive worried some investors last quarter when it again pushed back the timeline for its Pulse platform for spine surgery. CEO Chris Barry on Thursday affirmed the previously stated timeline — for a launch next summer and revenue by the end of 2021 — while also sharing an update that the company may end up simultaneously launching the platform in the U.S. and Europe given likely timing on FDA authorization and CE marking.
A robot offering will be integrated into Pulse, with first in-human use of the robot still projected for 2022. But the company will have several more hurdles before achieving regulatory approvals for that application.
"COVID does give some cover in delaying adoption of competitive robotic systems," Jefferies analysts noted to clients following the call.
Barry emphasized NuVasive's buy-in to the robotics application, calling it "key to our long-term enabling technology strategy."
On the whole, NuVasive beat Wall Street's revenue estimate, with year-over-year net sales change turning positive at 1.5% growth. Still, shares in NuVasive fell nearly 9% following the late Thursday earnings report, which SVB Leerink analysts speculated could be a response to the company progressing less quickly in U.S. recovery than certain peers, and perceived vulnerability to international performance given COVID-19 case surges.
Globus Medical acquired the technology behind its Excelsius GPS spine surgery robot in 2014. Today, robot sales are spurring a key benefit: helping drive implant sales, according to CEO Dave Demsky.
The $9 million in quarterly revenues from the robot were down 35% compared to the prior year, but up 66% versus the most recent quarter. Analysts at Needham took the results as "indicative of an improving capital environment for orthopedic robotics."
That trend is apparently already accelerating in the current quarter, with Globus reporting it sold more robots in the month of October than it did in the entire third quarter.
Demsky highlighted Stryker's Mako robot as helping grow the market from early days of higher surgeon skepticism, noting "the fact that we have competition out there that are also extolling the benefits of robotic surgery."
Globus revenues grew 10% during the quarter. Shares in Globus closed up more than 6% on Thursday following the earnings release.