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Global Medical Polymer market to grow over 5% till 2020

Global Medical Polymer market to grow over 5% till 2020

Medical polymers represent a major opportunity in the medical materials market over the next few years. Several factors are leading to growth in this market. Perhaps the most obvious is the ageing of the population in developed nations is expanding the addressable market for polymer implants. Many polymer implants are specifically intended to assist elder patients. Opportunity in this market has also expanded because the latest technical developments in medical polymers can fine tune implant capabilities, enable better fits for implants, and increase biocompatibility. Polymer structures can also now substitute for cartilage or enable doctors to grow a patient's tissue for transplants. At the same time the new legal protections that followed the silicone breast implant debacle have considerably reduced the risk in the medical polymer space. And as a result of all of these factors, the medical polymer business has taken off, with the emergence of new start-ups and plenty of M&A activity.

The global market for medical polymers is expected to reach US$7.05 bln by 2020, according to a new study by Grand View Research. Increasing substitution of conventional materials such as glass and metals in medical devices by high performance polymers such as PVC and polypropylene coupled with growing demand for medical devices from the fast developing Asian healthcare market is expected to drive medical polymer demand over the next six years. In addition, growing geriatric population is expected to further boost the demand for polymer based devices in minimally invasive surgeries resulting in increased demand for medical polymers. Devices and equipments were the largest application markets, accounting for over 2,000 kilo tons of medical polymer demand in 2013. Growing medical tourism due to low cost labor and advanced facilitates in emerging healthcare destinations of India, China, Malaysia and Singapore is expected to have positive impact on the market over the forecast period. Medical polymers are also extensively used in medical packaging applications owing to their superior properties and accounted for 2,271.3 kilo tons of demand in 2013. Further key findings from the study suggest:

* Medical polymer demand was 4,901.1 kilo tons in 2013 and is expected to reach 7,149.8 kilo tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 5.6% from 2014 to 2020;
* Fibres & resins were the largest product segment, with demand of 4,254.4 kilo tons in 2013 due to substitution of traditional materials used in devices, equipment and packaging by fibers and resins such as polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polyurethane and polystyrene;
* North America was the largest regional market for medical polymers, with revenue exceeding  US$4.18 bln in 2013. The presence of advanced medical and healthcare facility in the region was a key contributor to the high demand. In addition, the region is also expected to witness significant growth at an estimated CAGR of 8.1% from 2014 to 2020;
* Packaging applications are expected to witness fastest growth, at an estimated CAGR of 6% from 2014 to 2020. Packaging of syringes, tablets and other drugs takes place using polymers due to superior properties such as low weight, application specific performance and biodegradability which is expected to drive demand in this application.

According to a report published by Transparency Market Research, the market was valued at US$11.16 bln in 2012, and is expected to reach US$15.9 bln by 2019, growing at a CAGR of 5.2% from 2013 to 2019. Lack of adequate power infrastructure and increasing demand for reliable electricity delivery are the major driving forces of this market. 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 kilo 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.

An ageing population that is driving demand for healthcare products and the continuing trend to replace metal with plastic devices where feasible, means that demand for medical-grade plastics will continue to grow in the years ahead. Of the engineering plastics typically used in medical applications, PVC and PP will experience the greatest demand, while PE, PS, PET and PA will grow at a rapid pace, according to a recent report from ResearchandMarkets. Elastomers such as SBCs and rubber latex will also fare well, with the latter expected to command the largest market share. Relatively new in the medical segment, biodegradable polymers will exhibit impressive growth rates through 2018, according to the report, and will constitute a major future trend. Historically, demand for polymers has been higher in the medical device and equipment categories than in medical packaging. However, packaging is expected to exhibit better growth rates than medical devices and equipment over the forecast period, and demand for polymers will rise accordingly. Other applications such as active implantable devices and tissue engineering will show favorable growth over the next few years, providing interesting opportunities for medical-grade plastics suppliers. Countervailing forces include strict regulatory guidelines and volatile raw material prices, which have held back the medical polymers market. In spite of being a mature market, North America is expected to post favorable growth for medical polymers over the forecast period, as will Europe and Asia/Pacific. A vast and ageing population has been driving sales in the Asia/Pacific region, which is expected to show the highest growth in demand for medical-grade polymers over the next few years.

The Asia Pacific market for plastics in medical devices is forecast to grow by an average of 6.2% pa from US$162.3 mln in 2012 to US$219.1 mln in 2017, according to Frost & Sullivan. Although the volume of plastics used in medical devices is currently low in the region, improving regulations and rising investment in medical technology will drive growth, providing enormous opportunities for material suppliers. In global terms, the region is expected to outpace that of other areas. Commodity thermoplastics such as PVC, PE, PS and PP dominate the Asia Pacific market for plastics in medical devices, followed by silicones, TPEs and engineering plastics/high performance polymers, the report says. The highest growth is expected for PP, PE and engineering plastics/high performance polymers. The growing use of polyolefins in medical devices is driven by demand for alternatives to PVC, as well as by growth in end applications. The Southeast Asia market differs from the Australia and New Zealand markets, which are technologically sophisticated and export a significant volume of high performance medical devices, the report notes. In Southeast Asian countries, which are less developed, there is more of a focus on the manufacture of commodity medical devices such as consumables, including medical gloves, surgical drapes and gowns and other single-use devices. Southeast Asian countries are seeking foreign investment in medical technology to boost local manufacturing of medical devices, the report says. At the same time, the countries are working towards harmonising medical devices regulations to create a more coherent system. Consolidation is expected in the Asia Pacific market, with participants acquiring or partnering with smaller regional material suppliers, Frost & Sullivan says. In general, medical device manufacturers are increasingly substituting conventional materials such as metal and glass with plastics because of their superior flexibility and fabrication process. The healthcare industry is more immune to changes in the economy, allowing for the continued growth of plastics in medical devices.

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