|Medical product sector is an important but small sector of the polymer market. Increasingly cost of polymer medical products is increasing due to increase in feedstock prices. At the same time, consumers from the healthcare industry are exerting growing influence in deciding trends in the progress of polymers in medical or healthcare sector. Medical waste is gaining greater environmental emphasis. Disposable medical devices offer advantages of ease and comfort in use. A trend driving growth in medical devices and new materials is increasing use of minimally invasive surgeries (MIS). Device manufacturers for MIS are constantly developing new products and looking for new materials to expand their capabilities. However, with the greater usage of polymer disposable products, higher volumes of medical wastage create an environmental problem. Consumers are increasingly aware of extractable chemicals such as phthalate plasticizers used in some PVC and bisphenol A (BPA) used to manufacture PC. These chemicals are argued to trigger abnormal estrogenic activity. Their safety continues to be debated, and they have been restricted by the EU and Canada despite scientific evaluations that confirm their safety. US regulations do not currently restrict BPA, and limit phthalates in only a few applications (some childcare articles and toys). The EPA has been asked to develop action plans for six chemicals or chemical classes including BPA and phthalates.
While patient safety is supreme and environmental concerns are pressing, cost is still an issue. In the medical device industry, government programs and insurance companies dictate costs. To operate under these cost limits, device manufacturers are looking for light-weighting, improved designs and use of commodity materials when possible. Cost constraints and increasingly emerging environmental concerns will lead to development of environmentally friendly products that will ultimately reduce the overall cost of healthcare.
The global medical-device market is valued at around US$200 bln, with USA accounting for about 45% of this, as per Applied Market Information. Markets are growing in East Europe, Brazil, Russia, India and China. The Middle East and Africa have potential for growth, but there are limitations of infrastructure and political instability. Current healthcare trends include minimally invasive surgery. Biodegradable/bioabsorbable materials are increasing in usage, but can be difficult to process. Materials and device development were discussed extensively at the AMI conference on Medical Grade Polymers 2009. Demand for medical plastics is expected to reach US$6.55 bln in the US in 2012. Polymers used in implants include polyethylene, PEEK, silicone, polysulfone, PTFE, polypropylene and polycarbonate, along with the bioabsorbables polylactide (PLA), polyglycolide (PGA) and copolymers of PLA/PGA.
Currently in the production of disposable medical plastic products, enterprises have already reached more than 600, the output value has reached 3.8 billion yuan, accounting for 15% of total output value of medical equipment. US per capita consumption of plastics in the medical cost of US$300, while China is only 30 yuan, which to some extent, reflects China�s medical plastic products production technology and consumption levels and the gap between the developed countries and China, as per Cheaponsale.com