Sometimes just being an incredible invention isnt enough. A steep price tag proved to be one obstacle that the U.S. first stair-climbing wheelchair couldnt overcome.
Outliers: The end of the iBOT
Johnson & Johnson quietly sold the last iBOTs this spring, shuttering manufacturing of a wheelchair that doctors had greeted five years ago as potentially revolutionary for the freedom of movement it promisedbut which failed to sell more than a few hundred a year.
Now iBOT users who fear that their chairs will wear out are joining high-profile inventor Dean Kamenbest known for his Segwaysin lobbying Congress for reimbursement changes that they hope could revive a technology that carried a $22,000 price tag but that Medicare deemed worth about $6,000.
If I ever had to get out of this chair, I really dont know if Id want to live anymore, to be honest with you, says Alan T. Brown, 42, of Hollywood, Fla., who is mostly paralyzed from the chest down and on his second iBOT. Guys in these chairs ... we might be disabled now, but then wed really become disabled.
J&J blamed reimbursement in part for lack of a sustainable market, but pledged to provide iBOT users repair service through 2013.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.