How Plastics Revolutionized the Healthcare Sector?
Circumstantial development of plastic used in the medical industry has led to several technological advancements in recent years. The expansion of comprehensive medical care facilities in developed nations across all socio-economic boundaries combined with penetration of modern medical care techniques in developing regions has latently pulled the market for medical devices and their packaging. The associated cost and safety concerns in this scenario have prompted a huge and growing potential market for plastic medical products. At present, plastic reigns the medical world with numerous applications including tubing, containers for IV and dialysis fluids, blood bags, dialysis bags, IV sets, and examination and surgical gloves.
Polycarbonate and PEEK to Outweigh Conventional Plastics’ Demand
Depending on the customer requirement, cost-effectivity, raw material availability, and applicability, medical device manufacturers opt for different types of plastics. Among the various plastic types, conventional plastics such as PVC, PP, and PE account for more than 30% share in the medical industry. However, with the emergence of high-temperature applications of plastics, device manufacturers are shifting focus towards advanced polymers such as engineering thermoplastics that are used for various stages of disease management and surgeries.
The advanced polymers that are increasingly finding space in the medical industry are polycarbonate, acetal copolymer, polymethyl methacrylate, polyether ether ketone, and polyphenylsulfone among others. The unique set of characteristics of plastics have enabled manufacturers in the medical plastics market to replace titanium/stainless steel metals with plastics in medical tubing application. Examples of medical devices made using plastics include surgical instruments, catheters, coronary stents, pacemakers, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, X-ray machines, prosthetic limbs, artificial hips/knees, surgical gloves, and bandages.
Robust Development in Implantable Devices Arising Need for Engineered Polymers
Biocompatibility and durability are considered to be the most important factors while picking a new raw material for any medical product. It requires tremendous amount of research to select apt polymers to replace metal usage in medical devices. This factor has led to some exceptional developments of implantable devices, giving rise to the demand for suitable polymers.
In the 1990s, many suppliers felt resistant to serve the medical industry owing to high regulatory requirements, small volume consumption, and high-profile litigations. Those who did supply this market charged higher costs associated to regulatory compliance and risk management. To overcome such challenges, polymer manufacturers are continuously making the effort towards product innovations, focusing on biocompatibility, while others are developing combination products with drugs blended into polymer.
Plastics have contributed immensely to the healthcare sector during the pandemic enabling public safety. Frequent usage of hand sanitizers along with wearing plastic-based personal protective equipment (PPEs), viz. face masks, gloves, medical suits, aprons, gowns, face shields, surgical masks, and other PPEs have proved to be best possible solutions in these challenging times. Properties of plastic such as excellent strength to weight ratio and durability along with versatility, plastics have become irreplaceable in the healthcare industry. Thus, medical plastics are likely to find a major applications in single-use medical tools, equipment, and most importantly packaging.
Regulatory requirements for medical devices have been progressively becoming stringent over the past few years. Some of the examples being, tighter material specifications for medical applications, USP and ISO-10993 testing compliance, and no-change policies for manufacturing or formulations. In most of the cases, these compliances and tests are levied upon the raw polymer suppliers. This has made polymer suppliers more aware of the unique requirements of the medical market.
COVID-19 Reemphasizes the Role of Single-use Plastics in North America
In North America, demand for blood bags to store blood and blood components has increased considerably in the past year. A double-digit increase in the demand for convalescent plasma as COVID-19 cases surged in numerous states was observed since June of 2020. As people are becoming more aware and the number of blood donors is constantly rising, the regional blood bag is on the rise as well. Not only this but the demand for intravenous (IV) bags and dialysis bags is also on the continuous rise not just because of COVID-19 but also because of other health-related issues. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) is continuously updating its guidelines with regard to disposal of medical waste. This ensures a protocol-driven risk assessment and recommends mitigation steps to be adhered to by clinical and biomedical laboratories. Therefore, demand for biohazard bags is expected to rise at a substantial pace worldwide in the near future. This has had a compelling effect on polymer manufacturers to utilize their production capacity to the maximum extent in order to fulfill this ever-increasing demand.
Asia Pacific and Europe, highly virus-affected regions, had to over utilize their production plants for manufacturing medical products and devices. This led to tremendous demand for raw materials, with plastic being the key amongst all. The role of plastics in these regions have been inevitable owing to tremendous demand from highly populated areas.
Companies Focusing on Capacity Expansion to Meet the Soaring Demand
The key companies operating the global medical plastics market are Celanese Corporation, Eastman Chemical Company, GW Plastics, Orthoplastics Ltd, Aran Biomedical Teoranta, Rochling, SABIC, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, SOLVAY, and DOW Chemical Company. These leading market players are devising strategies such as partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, facility expansions, and research and development to expand their geographic presence and customer base all over the world.
In January 2020, GW Plastics completed the expansion of its Royalton, Vermont Manufacturing and Technology Center, to expand its medical device business. To extend a helping hand into manage the current COVID-19 crisis, Solvay has promised to supply high-performance, medical-grade transparent film to Boeing for the production of face shields.
Key Elements Included In The Study: Global Medical Plastics Market
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