Several polymers, on account of versatility offered by them, are used in the medical field and are termed as medical polymers. Medical polymers have various applications in the field of dentistry and medicine such as in prosthetic implants, tissue engineering and drug delivery. Since these materials are used in medicine, they need strong adherence to high manufacturing standards. The market for medical polymers, on the basis of nature of materials, is segmented as fibers, resins, elastomers and other non biodegradable or biodegradable polymers. Medical fibers and resins include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polyamide (PA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PFTE), polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and others. Medical elastomers include, polyurethane, natural rubber latex, silicone rubber, butyl rubber and thermoplastic elastomers. Biodegradable polymers used in medical field include polycaprolactone, polylactic acid, polycarbonate, polyhydroxyalkanoates, polyphosphate, polybutylene succinate, etc. The applications for medical polymers include cardiovascular system, tissue engineering, medical packing and medical devices. The novel application of medical polymers in the prosthetic implants is a strong opportunity that can be leveraged by large companies investing in R&D and intellectual property. Some of the leading industry participants in this market are Eastman Chemical Company, DSM N.V., Evonik Industries, Solvay S.A., E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and Celanese Corporation. Some of the factors which drive the medical polymers market are technological advances in the field of healthcare, rising demand for low weigh medical devices and increasing health awareness in developing nations. The non-biodegradable nature of plastics and medical waste management are the two major concerns which restrain the medical polymers market. North America leads the global medical polymers market in terms of revenues and is closely followed by Europe, as per Transparency Market Research. The Asia-Pacific market is the fastest growing segment in this industry owing to the increasing healthcare expenditures and huge patient pool. Global sales of polymers used in medical devices exceeded US$2 billion in 2011, as per Frost & Sullivan. That number includes polymers for prosaic non implantable devices such as medical tubing and gloves, as well as for devices such as sutures or catheters used in the body for less than 30 days. Frost analyst Tridisha Goswami notes that plastics often replace metals in surgical applications, where their weight, flexibility and strength, and cost are an advantage. As a result, high-performance plastics sales will grow by about 9% pa compared with 6% for competing metals. In orthopedic implants, such as replacement hips and knees, plastics don’t form problematic debris that cause artificial joints to wear out quickly.
The Chinese market for medical polymers was valued at US$1.7 bln in 2011 and at US$1.9 bln in 2012, as per BCC Research. The report forecasts total market value to surpass US$4 bln in 2017, after increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.1%. The Chinese medical polymer market is growing quickly due to its close relationship with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in China. The medical polymer market has grown steadily over the last twenty years and this growth is expected to continue over the next five years. This market is expected to be influenced by several factors such as the fast growth of the medical products market, establishment of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in China, shifts by polymer manufacturers towards medical applications, production efficiency improvement, low emission standards and solutions for environmental constraints. The cardiovascular market is the fastest growing market in terms of consumption of medical polymers, although it is currently one of the smallest markets. PLA will be the fastest-growing segment over the next five years and it will grow at a CAGR of more than 26% from 2012 through 2017. The research and development efforts for nontoxic polymers are increasing because of the high safety standards in the medical industry. The industry will also be significantly impacted by the increased environmental regulations in China. The medical polymers market and production centers are concentrated in five major regions in China, including the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and Northern China. This report identifies the Yangtze River Delta as both the largest and fastest growing region for medical polymers in China.
Polymer suppliers can count on the legal protections of the Biomaterials Access Assurance Act of 1998. Polymer companies such as DSM, Evonik Industries, Solvay and Eastman Chemical now insist on contracts with medical device makers that strictly limit their liability in the case of a device failure. Aided by the new liability protections and new market opportunities, Dow Corning has increased its activity as a supplier of resins for medical use. In June, DSM acquired Kensey Nash, an Exton, Pa.-based maker of materials such as resorbable collagen-based vascular closure and hernia tissue repair patches for US$360 mln . In 2008, DSM acquired Polymer Technology Group, a Berkeley, Calif.-based medical implant polymer supplier. Three years earlier, DSM had established a biomedical business based on its high-molecular-weight polyethylene fiber Dyneema, used in medical sutures. German specialty chemical maker Evonik has also enlarged its involvement with medical polymers recently. In early 2011, it acquired Boehringer Ingelheim’s Resomer line of lactic acid and glycolic acid biodegradable polymers, used to make surgical screws, nails, and plates. Later in the year, Evonik bought the pharmaceutical business of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based SurModics, which included resorbable polymers for implants.