According to a new report from industry analyst firm, NanoMarkets, the global medical polymer market will grow from $2.3 billion (USD) in 2013 to over $3.5 billion in 2018, due to an aging population and technical developments.
The report entitled, ‘Worldwide Medical Polymer Markets 2013-2020’ suggests implants currently consume about half the medical polymers produced and are expected to account for around $1.6 billion 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.
According to the report, sales of polymers for diagnostic systems will reach $1.04 billion in 2018. In vitro diagnostics account for 50,000 to 60,000 metric tonnes of specialised and commodity plastics every year. Most diagnostic procedures today are rapid, multi-assays, and plastics have become indispensable. The report suggests 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 percent 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 report says 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. The report suggests 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.