No Matter What You Call It, It Still Stinks

Note to Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX  ) : Announcing a recall of your heart defibrillators during a major cardiology meeting probably isn't the best move. I can only imagine the buzz within the halls of the American College of Cardiology meeting as doctors discussed yesterday's announcement.

And what's up with making the announcement just as the stock market opens? You told your sales reps Sunday evening. You knew they'd tell doctors, who would tell analysts. How about making it a level playing field for the little guys without friends who happen to be cardiologists or analysts?

Maybe the delay was to come up with your euphemism for recall? "Ship hold and inventory retrieval" has a nice ring to it, but I wouldn't count on it helping to deaden the blow.

The only good news is that this is a paperwork issue and there isn't anything wrong with the quality of the devices -- or least any that we know of. Boston Scientific made changes to the way the products were manufactured, but the company never cleared the changes with the Food and Drug Administration. Oops. Not as bad as Sequenom (Nasdaq: SQNM  ) having to take back data that was "mishandled," but certainly not a good start for the new management.

Putting sales on hold will hurt financially -- one analyst puts it at one penny in earnings per share for every two weeks or so -- but that should be a temporary situation. Either the FDA will eventually approve the changes or Boston Scientific will go back to manufacturing the products the old way. Either way, the company will eventually start selling the devices again.

The bigger issue is what the recall will do for Boston Scientific's reputation with doctors and the FDA. St. Jude Medical (NYSE: STJ  ) and Medtronic (NYSE: MDT  ) look poised to take market share while Boston Scientific clears up the paperwork fiasco. St. Jude has some experience kicking its rivals while they're down; Medtronic recalled the leads on its defibrillators back in 2007.

Boston Scientific's rocky relationship with the FDA will be even more strained. In 2006, the company was cited by the FDA for having "ongoing systemic violations" of quality-control standards. Given the new oversight, it seems likely that the FDA will take a closer look at all its regulatory filings, which could delay the launch of new products.

Might Boston Scientific be a bad news buy? Maybe. As of this morning, there's been a small pop as investors realize they might have overreacted to the news. But why bother with doomed companies when there's so many well run companies like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) and Procter & Gamble  (NYSE: PG  ) available to choose from?

Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Johnson & Johnson stock. The Fool owns shares of Medtronic and Procter & Gamble and has written puts on Medtronic. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2010, at 3:04 PM, gratianus wrote:

    Certainly BSX hasn't done itself any favors, but don't you think "doomed" is a bit strong? I won't run through the reasons BSX can prosper in the future, but you know that it is a strong competitor for both stents and CRDs, and that the non-invasive surgical line is doing well. Speaking for myself as an investor, who was in BSX earlier in the decade when it was in trouble and did well with it, I think the current environment makes it a compelling buy for a patient investor. In the ultra-short term, buying another 1000 shares yesterday at 6.51 feels good today. Take a look back at this 12 months from now.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2010, at 6:10 PM, bigjohnson2 wrote:

    INTRIGUING. defibrillators RESEMBLE AUTOMOBILES, THEY GET RECALLED TO.

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