A closer look at DePuy’s new President, Andrew Ekdahl, and the challenges he faces
DePuy announces new Leadership (press release)
DePuy’s Ekdahl off and running (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. wants a dynasty, not a debacle.
Andrew Ekdahl, whom DePuy officials announced this month as the company’s new president, is now entrusted with leading the medical-device business.
The company veteran spent more than two decades with DePuy and its parent, Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, N.J. He comes aboard at a precarious time, with the company dealing with quality-control issues related to its hip products.
Industry insiders say Ekdahl faces a challenging assignment, but his experience and familiarity with DePuy’s inner workings should serve him well as he adjusts to the top post.
Ekdahl takes over for David Floyd, who resigned in February in the midst of lawsuits against the company alleging defective hip replacement implants.
“It’s ironic that he is replacing Floyd, who kind of wrote the book on how to guide a company through what DePuy is facing now,” said Robin Young, founder of the Warsaw-based orthopedic-data firm PearlDiver Technologies Inc. and publisher of “Orthopedics This Week,” an online industry journal.
Young said Floyd has handled crises similar to the hip implants for J&J before – but not this time.
“There’s no doubt (Ekdahl) is coming into a crappy situation,” Young said, “but I’m sure he was selected based on his experience.”
A company spokeswoman said Ekdahl is traveling and unavailable for interviews. Other executives at J&J were not available for comment.
Last August, DePuy voluntarily recalled the ASR Hip Resurfacing and ASR XL Acetabular systems. The company said data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that within five years about 13 percent of patients with the acetabular system and 12 percent with the hip resurfacing system needed corrective surgery.
Ekdahl will lead the joint replacement and trauma company’s growing orthopedic operations and serve on the DePuy Franchise Global Management Board of the DePuy Family of Companies. DePuy Orthopaedics employs 1,200 in Warsaw, where it is based.
Ekdahl’s career includes time working in orthopedics, trauma, sports medicine, neurosciences and spine areas. He previously was franchise vice president of DePuy Europe, Middle East and Africa. Ekdahl has held positions in sales, marketing and distribution in the United States, Canada and other countries. He has a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Manitoba in Canada and a master’s in business administration from Wilfred Laurier University in Canada.
Danelle Miller is president of the board of directors for the Indiana Medical Device Manufacturers Council and legal counsel for global quality and regulatory affairs with Roche Diagnostics Corp., both in Indianapolis. Miller said Ekdahl, besides dealing with internal concerns, must contend with tighter regulatory scrutiny from the government.
“The medical device industry is incredibly difficult right now,” Miller said. “The FDA and Congress are looking harder at how medical devices are regulated, so it’s a real hot point right now.”
J&J is attempting to stay a step ahead of the curve. One example is its pending acquisition of U.S.-Swiss medical device maker Synthes Inc. for $21.3 billion. The deal would represent J&J’s largest ever. The company believes the acquisition would complement DePuy’s portfolio of products.
Still, the deal has its critics. In April, Moody’s analyst Michael Levesque was quoted by The Associated Press as saying that “despite the benefits of acquiring Synthes, J&J is incurring new debt during a period of increased operating challenges including product recalls, placing pressure on the Triple-A credit rating.”
Executives at Zimmer Inc., DePuy’s Warsaw neighbor and competitor, are interested in how the acquisition plays out over the next several months as regulators consider approving the takeover, said Garry Clark, director of public relations.
“DePuy caused a lot of discussion with the potential merger,” he said. “I’m sure Mr. Ekdahl will have to deal with the same types of issues everyone does. Questions about processes and quality control will be what he’ll have to focus on.”
Regarding the recalls, Clark said he suspects that “will definitely take some time to resolve.”
DePuy showed resolve this month when it gained approval of a ceramic-on-metal hip implant system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The company said it expects the Pinnacle Complete Acetabular Hip System to offer “durability and stability, along with enhanced low-wear characteristics, that will provide surgeons with an important new option for patients with severe osteoarthritis.”
Miller said resiliency will help Ekdahl as he settles into his new position.
“Obviously, with his years at the company, he knows the ins and outs there,” she said. “That should aid him going forward.”