August 29, 2017 / 4:00 PM / a year ago

Abbott releases new round of cyber updates for St. Jude pacemakers

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories said on Tuesday it will issue updates to reduce the risk of its St. Jude heart implants being hacked and to warn patients that the devices’ batteries may run down earlier than expected.

It is the second round of updates for the heart implants that Abbott has announced since buying medical device maker St. Jude Medical earlier this year.

The U.S. government launched a probe last year into claims the devices were vulnerable to potentially life-threatening hacks that could cause implanted devices to pace at potentially dangerous rates or cause them to fail by draining their batteries.

St. Jude recalled some of its 400,000 implanted heart devices last October due to risk of premature battery depletion, which was linked to two deaths in Europe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said then that hospitals should return unused devices and warned patients with an already implanted device to seek immediate medical attention if they get a low-battery alert.

“Abbott is resolving all old St. Jude Medical issues,” Abbott spokeswoman Candace Steele Flippin said.

The new update will provide doctors with an earlier warning when the batteries in Abbott’s implantable cardioverter defibrillators are at risk of early depletion.

Abbott said it will also update the software embedded in pacemakers to reduce the risk of hacking. The company said there have been no reports of unauthorized access to any patient’s implanted device and that compromising the security of the devices would require a complex set of circumstances. (Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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