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Philips recently formed a research alliance with a hospital and university in the western Chinese city of Chengdu and announced the acquisition of a company making patient-monitoring equipment in the southern city of Shenzhen. The industry "will start to see more companies moving their manufacturing to China," predicts David Jin, chief executive for Greater China for Philips Health Care, which also operates a joint venture with a Chinese company in northeastern China, the Neusoft Group, making MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, and X-ray equipment.
Still, given the track record of Chinese companies in toys, food, and drugs, some Americans are bound to wonder whether Chinese manufacturing is reliable enough for sensitive medical equipment. "Many of these devices are life-sustaining, and it's critically important that they be manufactured to specification," says Dr. William Maisel, director of the Medical Device Safety Institute, Medicine Dept., at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. When products are made outside the U.S., "it's difficult for the FDA to monitor," adds Dr. Maisel. "I would have some concerns about products that are manufactured in unregulated areas."