Stronger robot sales lead to better Q2 for da Vinci maker Intuitive

Amid ongoing safety and cost concerns, Intuitive Surgical, the maker of the da Vinci surgical robot, is rebounding financially from last year’s sales slump.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company reported sharply higher earnings in the second quarter as shipments of the devices picked up across the globe. Intuitive shipped 118 da Vinci systems in the three months ended June 30 compared to 96 shipped during the same period last year.

There were 14% more procedures performed with the robots for the latest quarter over a year ago, the company reported, with growth taking place not just in the U.S. but across Asia and other international markets.

As a result, Intuitive earnings jumped 29.3% to $134.5 million on $586.1 million in revenue in the second quarter compared to $104 million in profits on $512.2 million in sales a year ago. Operating expenses were relatively tame despite a 22.9% increase in research and development costs.

For the first half of its fiscal year, Intuitive reported $231.5 million in income on $1.1 billion in sales, a profits boost of 56.1% from a year ago when it earned $148.3 million on $977 million in sales. System unit sales were up 27% compared to last year’s first half, when reports of mishaps using the devices sent sales and the company’s share price tumbling.

Looking ahead, Intuitive reported it has obtained FDA clearance for several da Vinci instruments and European clearance for its integrated table motion product for the da Vinci Xi system.

Still, the company finances aren’t out of the woods. Attorneys representing patients claiming they were harmed by the devices have filed dozens of product liability lawsuits.

And clinical groups, such as the influential American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have pushed back against the manufacturer’s claims that outcomes using surgical robots compare favorably with more traditional surgical techniques. They say robotic surgery is the high cost option for routine hysterectomies, which are among the most common procedures performed using da Vinci robots.

Adam Rubenfire

Adam Rubenfire covers breaking healthcare news and supply chain for Modern Healthcare. His beat responsibilities include capital equipment, group purchasing organizations, food service and general medical supplies. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Automotive News and Crain’s Detroit Business. He has a bachelor’s degree in organizational studies from the University of Michigan. He joined Modern Healthcare in 2014.