The global medical polymer market will grow from US$2.3 bln in 2013 to over US$3.5 bln in 2018, as per Nano Markets. Implants currently consume about half the medical polymers produced and are expected to account for around US$1.6 bln in polymer sales by 2018. Polymers have been penetrating the implant market because they are lower cost and lighter weight than metal alternatives such as titanium. The report also indicates that increased use of medical imaging is creating further demand for polymers. Sales of polymers for diagnostic systems will reach US$1.04 bln in 2018, while in vitro diagnostics account for 50,000 to 60,000 metric tons of specialized and commodity plastics every year. Most diagnostic procedures today are rapid, multi-assays and plastics have become indispensable. The growth prospects in this sector are thus particularly strong. The report claims that PMMA, PS/styrenics, and PP are the leading medical polymers based on revenue accounting for around 26% of the market in 2013. There are also some high-value niches appearing in the market. Commercial elastomers that provide a “soft touch” are being used to coat accessories, such as catheters, gloves and syringes, in order to impart a soft touch feel. Their use is expected to grow in intravenous drug delivery systems, cardio systems and blood collection devices. The last decade has seen the rise of biodegradable polymers. The current trend suggests that in the near future, entire prostheses will be developed from these materials. While they will not be used to manufacture diagnostic products, biodegradable polymers will be incorporated into implants and some clinical labware. There is some additional interest in discovering new biodegradable polymers for medical applications, but investment in this area is limited due to the need to complete extensive long-term studies in order to validate new materials.
As per Transparency Market Research, the global medical polymers demand was 4391000 tons in 2011 and is expected to reach 6411700 tons in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 5.6% from 2012 to 2018. In terms of revenue, the market was valued at US$8.4 bln in 2011 and is grow at a CAGR of 8.4% from 2012 to 2018. Increase in life expectancy leading to increased demand for healthcare treatment is expected to be the key driver for the medical polymers market. It is estimated that by 2050, over 16% of the global population would be over 65 years of age. This would result in higher demand for home healthcare treatment as the above-mentioned populations is the key segment for the market. Home healthcare directly impacts the sale of medical disposables, which are increasingly being made from polymers owing to reduced cost and superior performance. The development and use of biodegradable plastic in medical industry is also expected to be a key feature responsible for the development of the market over the forecast period. Fibers and resins dominated the medical polymers market and accounted for over 85% of global consumption in 2011. PVC and PP were the highest consumed resins accounting for over 55% of the segment sale in 2011. However, engineering thermoplastics like PC and ABS are expected to have the fastest growth in the resins and fibers segment, growing at a CAGR of over 8% from 2012 to 2018. Medical elastomers such as SBC, TPU, TPO, Silica Rubber and TPV among others were the second largest consumed product segment for the market and recorded consumption of over 550,000 tons in 2011. In spite of its small market size, biodegradable plastics are expected to witness exponential growth over the forecast period. Medical polymers are used in applications such as medical devices and equipment, packaging, cardiology stents and tissue engineering. Medical devices and equipment was the most dominant application segment for medical polymers in 2011 accounting for nearly 50% of the global volume. Medical packaging was the second largest application segment in 2011 and is expected to witness the fastest growth over the forecast period owing to substitution of conventional materials such as glass by PVC, PP and engineering thermoplastics. North America was the largest consumer of medical polymers and consumed over 1,800 kilo tons in 2011. North America and Europe are expected to remain dominant markets for medical polymers over the next six years owing to the negligible impact of economic downturn on the medical industry in these regions. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market over the forecast period majorly due to the shift in manufacturing activities from western countries to countries such as India and China.
The Chinese market for medical polymers, valued at US$1.7 bln in 2011 and at US$1.9 bln in 2012, is forecasted to surpass US$4 bln in 2017, after increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.1%, according to a BCC Research report. The Chinese medical polymer market is growing quickly because of its close relationship with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in China. The medical polymer market has grown steadily over the last 20 years, and the report predicts that this growth will continue over the next five years. The Chinese medical polymer 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. According the report, the cardiovascular market is the fastest growing market in terms of consumption of medical polymers, although it is currently one of the smallest markets. Additionally, the report states that polylactide (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 R&D 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.