A new comprehensive study from US business consultancy Frost & Sullivan, Analysis of the Plastic Polymers in Medical Devices Market, finds that the total North American market volume of plastics in medical devices totaled 1,370 mn pounds (621,000 tonnes), corresponding to revenues in excess of $1 bn. By 2018, revenues are expected to equal $1.45 bn, fuelled by a compound annual growth rate of 5.2 percent. Commodity plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) account for most of the total volume.
"While the baby boomer population has surpassed 76 million, the number of young people requiring medical care is also on the rise," said Shomik Majumdar, vice president, chemicals and materials at Frost & Sullivan. "The higher incidence of lifestyle diseases, along with governments' keener focus on improving healthcare, drives the demand for medical devices and consequently, plastic polymers."
Reduced hospital stay to lower healthcare costs will increase the focus on homecare medical devices and enhance the demand for dialysis kits and diabetes control devices. This will therefore augment the need for medical plastics. Plastics are preferred in homecare devices due to their flexibility, durability and light weight.
On the flip side, there are some concerns about the use of polymers in medical devices, especially in terms of degradability and recyclability. Nevertheless, this environmental issue has not reached a critical state. The low price of commodity resins like PE, PP, PVC and their high performance characteristics makes them irreplaceable in the near future.
"There has also been heightened focus on engineered polymers such as co-polyether-ester elastomers (COPE), polyether block amides (PEBA), and acetal chemistries that have more advanced performance properties for niche, technologically advanced healthcare applications, such tissue engineering and implants," said research analyst Tridisha Goswami. "These new materials will expand the scope of plastic polymers' application and propel the market."