The medical devices maker Medisys has sacked Smiths Group as US marketing partner for its safety syringe, after Smiths' chief executive said he had "almost given up" on the product.
The comments by Keith Butler-Wheelhouse, made to The Independent and reported on Thursday, led to a breakdown in the relationship between the two companies.
Medisys said yesterday it was terminating the 18-month-old agreement with Smiths, and analysts believe it will now be months before the product is launched. Medisys shares fell a further 15 per cent to 12.75p.
The company said it would make a further announcement "once it has formalised its alternative plans for the commercialisation and distribution of the Futura Safety Syringe". It could decide to try to market the product itself or appoint a new partner.
Smiths refused to comment on the debacle yesterday but it is understood to be surprised by Medisys' decision. Smiths already sells two of its own safety syringes in the US, although the Futura product - whose needle is pulled back inside the syringe with a rubber band to stop hospital staff pricking themselves - is a more advanced design.
The two companies are in dispute over a $1.95m (£1.2m) milestone payment that Smiths says is not due because the Futura syringe did not pass last-minute tests in hospitals.
Futura is proving difficult for doctors and nurses to operate, with many cases of misfiring being reported. Medisys is conducting further tests of its own and will review the data at the end of next month.